Emergency workers load a “casualty” into an ambulance during a May 2017 exercise simulating a biological attack at the Pentagon. Credit: Sgt. Sara Wood/American Forces Press Service

Twenty-first century perspectives on the far-from-toothless Biological Weapons Convention

By Glenn Cross, Lynn C. Klotz, July 1, 2020

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Emergency workers load a “casualty” into an ambulance during a May 2017 exercise simulating a biological attack at the Pentagon. Credit: Sgt. Sara Wood/American Forces Press Service

In 1960 Matthew Meselson, a newly-minted assistant professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University, spent the summer at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Washington, DC, a US government funded independent organization that worked on non-proliferation issues (Klotz and Sylvester 2009). Paul Doty, a long-time advisor to the government on nuclear-weapons disarmament and Meselson’s departmental colleague at Harvard, had recommended Meselson spend time at the agency.

While at the agency, Meselson decided to pay a visit to nearby Fort Detrick, Maryland, to see what the United States was doing, where he had a flash of insight. At the building that housed the giant fermenters used for anthrax production. Meselson asked, “Why do we do this?” His guide on the tour, Leroy Fothergill, replied, “It’s a lot cheaper than nuclear weapons.”

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