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Anthrax



From Paris, David Wingeate Pike sends us this important historical footnote on anthrax. It concerns Lord Cherwell (1886-1957), whom knew as Frederick Lindemann when he was a Student (i.e. Fellow) of Christ Church, Oxford. An Alsatian Jew by origin, and a pupil of Walther Nernst, he came to Oxford, where he established the Clarendon Laboratory. He was the most important scientist in the British Empire and the scientific adviser of Churchill, who had him named Lord Cherwell (the name of one of Oxford's rivers). He had an extraordinary network of people who kept him and Churchill informed about the Nazi threat, and he became a cabinet minister. He was a cantankerous individual and he threatened to sue the college (I never knew why). Is the implication of David's message that he was warning that the Nazis might use anthrax, or was he suggesting that the British might use anthrax against the Nazis?

Here is what David says: "The latest discovery about the anthrax spores that settled on floors and desks in the office of Senator Thomas Daschle shows that areas can remain contaminated long after the initial event in which the bacteria were released, because certain spores continue to return to the air. How much longer, after they are first released?

In December 1941 the British Government began testing the effect of anthrax on sheep on the Scottish island of Gruinard. The British professor of engineering Allan Younger, who had worked on the project, testified in 1997, when the reports were finally released, that the anthrax bomb was infinitely more deadly than the atomic bomb because one bomb could remain effective over an entire city over several generations. Churchill's scientific adviser Lord Cherwell wrote to the Prime Minister: "There is no known cure and no effective prophylaxis. Whole cities would be made uninhabitable." While it sounded like hyperbole, events have overtaken us. Could we hear from the experts?"

Ronald Hilton - 12/18/01


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