Helicobacter pylori and the Bacterial Theory of Ulcers
Cardinal Stritch University
This case is an account of the events that led Drs. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall to the bacterial theory of ulcers. The two physicians refused to accept the standard explanations for what they had observed and instead developed an alternative hypothesis, saving countless patients from unnecessary pain and suffering. Along the way they transformed the way the medical community viewed peptic ulcer disease. The case shows the importance of curiosity, serendipity, and tenacity in scientific inquiry; how science is built upon the work of others; how assumptions can cloud people's views, leaving them closed to new ideas; and how scientific "truth" can and does change when faced with new data and new interpretations. It is appropriate for use in any course at the high school or undergraduate level that teaches students about the scientific method and/or the sociology, nature, and history of science.
- Trace the development of a major idea in biology/medicine.
- Learn about the cultures in which the people profiled in this case story lived and worked.
- Illustrate the scientific method using a real life example.
- Provide insight into how a discipline's base assumptions can affect scientific progress.
- Provide an opportunity for students to analyze authentic data.
- Show how scientists identify a causal relationship between a pathogen and a particular disease.
KeywordsHelicobacter pylori; ulcer; gastritis; nature of science; sociology of science; experimental design; J. Robin Warren; Barry Marshall; Nobel Prize
Topical AreasHistory of science, Scientific method
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsAnalysis (Issues), Discussion
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Microbiology | Science (General) | Medicine (General) | Science Education |