History of Biowarfare

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 04.01.09
  • NOVA scienceNOW

Natural epidemics of cholera and plague are frightening enough, but the notion that rogue states or terrorists could harness these or other diseases as weapons of war is even more chilling. Here, explore confirmed cases of biowarfare and bioterrorism, from medieval times to today, and learn more about state-sponsored programs that experts fear could provide the seeds of future attacks.

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Once, plague-infested corpses were catapulted over castle walls. Today's version might be an engineered "superplague."


Special Thanks

Mark Wheelis, UC Davis


© WGBH Educational Foundatio
(Jeffery Amherst)
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Divisio
(soldier and gas mask)
© Corbis/Bettmann
(scientists injecting bacillus into rats)
Courtesy Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection
(technicians in Fort Detrick)
© AP Images
© WGBH Educational Foundatio
(Tokyo subway attack)
© Tokyo Shimbu/Corbis Sygma
(United Nations Security Council)
Courtesy United Nations/Tara Engberg
(anthrax letter)
Public domain

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