Thursday, September 3, 2009

A short history of nearly everything

A friend lent me Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's a real page turner... here's a passage.

"Swine flu (viral infection) arose as a normal, non-lethal flu in the spring of 1918, but somehow, over the following months, it mutated into something more severe. In an attempt to devise a vaccine, medical authorities conducted experiments on volunteers at a military prison on Deer Island in Boston Harbour. The prisoners were promised pardon if they survived a battery of tests. These tests were rigorous to say the least. First, the subjects were injected with infected lung tissue taken from the dead and then sprayed in the eyes, nose and mouth with infectious aerosols. If they still failed to succumb, they had their throats swabbed with discharges taken straight from the sick and dying. If all else failed, they were required to sit open-mouthed while a gravely ill victim was sat up slightly and made to cough into their faces.

Out of- somewhat amazingly- three hundred men who volunteered, the doctors chose sixty-two for the tests. None contracted the flu, not one. The only person who did grow ill was the ward doctor, who swiftly died."

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