I read this in the 1980s, though it might have been published much earlier (I had a huge stack of paperbacks from an older cousin).

Basically, the scientist protagonist (plus maybe a collaborator) finds a way to cure the common cold, and tests it on himself. (The scientist and his colleague are men; the only woman I recall is his wife, of no specific occupation, who has a cold. This likely indicates a story written pre-1960.)

It works; he breathes with complete ease - and discovers that everyone and everything around him stink. Stale smoke, stale perfume, body odor, food on people's breath, he can suddenly smell everything, and he hates it. And of course everybody else is completely oblivious to this.

In the end he finally manages to engineer a stronger cold virus so he can get his cold back and live in relative comfort.


1 Answer 1


This is The Coffin Cure by Alan E. Nourse, available to read online here.

After curing the common cold, the hero (Dr. Coffin) discovers that the world is a filthy stinksome place.

"But what's happened?" Coffin cried. "These foul smells, everywhere. You, Phillip, you had a cigarette this morning. I can smell it clear over here, and it's bringing tears to my eyes. And if I didn't know better I'd swear neither of you had had a bath in a week. Every odor in town has suddenly turned foul—"

  • 6
    Nice; fast and correct. The story is available at Project Gutenberg; I probably read it in Nourse's anthology Tiger by the Tail....
    – DavidW
    Dec 23, 2019 at 22:25
  • 3
    I'm a bit confused. Did the scientist have a permanent cold or did the "cure" also enhance his sense of smell? Dec 24, 2019 at 9:42
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    @Parrotmaster - The implication is that we're all suffering from a low-level cold all the time, which is (unbeknownst to the scientists) actually beneficial to the human race
    – Valorum
    Dec 24, 2019 at 10:05
  • 3
    It sounds like what he really found a cure for was just stuffed noses.
    – Barmar
    Dec 26, 2019 at 7:02
  • 1
    First thing that novel Coronavirus does is kill your sense of smell. So prescient!!!!
    – RoboKaren
    May 28, 2020 at 14:37

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