Arrowsmith – Sinclair Lewis


Arrowsmith is often described as the first ‘scientific’ novel. The books explores medical and scientific themes in a fictional way and it is difficult to think of an earlier book that does this. Although he was not a doctor, Sinclair Lewis’s father was and he was greatly helped in the preparation of the manuscript by the science writer Paul de Kruif. It was de Kruif who brings a reality to the book that is almost biographical.

This reality means that the books heralds the real impact of advances in drugs, public health and immunology that were about to change the world. It also satirises those medical and scientific practitioners whose pursuit of fame and fortune, at the expense of truth, remains just as pertinent today.

The book was first published in 1925 and was a popular and commercial success. It was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1926 which was refused by Sinclair Lewis. He was later to win the Nobel Prize for Literature – which he accepted.

This edition of Arrowsmith beings back to life one of the great medical/scientific novels. Its theme and insights are as relevant today as they were 90 years ago.

More About the Author

Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair’s socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a free lance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street (1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers (1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide (1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. From Main Street to Stockholm, a collection of his letters, was published in 1952, and The Man from Main Street, a collection of essays, in 1953. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.