We write to survive

Posted 7 December 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

If one of my professors at university had told me that as a scientist I would have to write a lot, I would have run. But no one told me, so here I am. I’ve come a long way. I hated writing, and my English was crappy. Producing my first paper was an ordeal. So much so that my supervisor wrote it for me. Now I can’t live without arranging words into sentences, and sentences into stories. Writing is a... Read more

Beauty of the Small

Posted 21 November 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

Traditionally, microbiologists have a tough life. When Koch and Pasteur told the World that tiny thingies threaten our health and lifes, people crinkled their noses. How can something so small have such influence on the crown of evolution/creation? Microbes are everywhere and it took us a long time to learn that. Take the ocean for example. Way back then, when the microbiologist's main tools were light microscopes and solid media, we believed that microbes don't play a role in the... Read more

A Microbial Society

Posted 7 November 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

Earth is a planet of microbes. To us, these tiny organisms might seem insignificant because of their size, or even scary considering that some of them cause disease. That microbes exist since more than 3 billion years and form the basis of all life on Earth is a fact only few people are aware of. When Koch and Pasteur established the germ theory in the 19th century, people were disbelieving and even outraged. How can something so small cause such... Read more

Logs are Falling

Posted 16 September 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

“I need a brain,” says he, and off dash his guards, fetch a prisoner, hack at his skull with an axe, and deliver the steaming organ to their general. “But it’s damaged,” he complains, and sends the remains to the furnace.* The complex covers six square kilometers - a small city, with 4,500 containers to breed fleas, six cauldrons to produce a variety of chemicals, 1,800 containers to produce biological agents, and prisons to house 300 to 400 people -... Read more

A New Era of Biological Warfare

Posted 29 August 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

Poison gas, tanks, drones, and mobile X-Ray machines - the Great War motivated a technological revolution. With the germ theory being widely accepted and Koch’s and Pasteur’s groundbreaking work on isolation and characterization of deadly germs, the next step came only naturally: A systematic bacterial weapon.   Anton Dilger grew up on the Greenfield farm in Virginia as a son of German immigrants. At the age of seven, his parents sent him to Germany to prepare for a university education.... Read more

“Either socialism will defeat the louse, or the louse will defeat socialism*”

Posted 8 August 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

(* V.I. Lenin, 1919) By the time World War I began, humans knew enough of disease to incorporate it in warfare practice. Pasteur and Koch had successfully isolated pathogenic bacteria and the concept of “bad air” causing disease was replaced by the germ theory. Up until then, disease was causing far more deaths than combat. Yet, the Generals of the Western Front were convinced they could tip the scale - a feat unprecedented in European history - and began a... Read more

The Murderously Helpful Blowfly

Posted 21 July 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

During one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil - the Civil War - perceptive strategists used disease as a weapon. They did so without knowledge of pathogenic bacteria and their insect vectors.   Diarrhea, malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid fever were decisive forces during the Civil War. Many battles were delayed, or avoided altogether when soldiers of both sides were too sick to fight. More than 1.7 million cases of diarrhea with 44-thousand deaths, and 1.3 million cases of... Read more

Don’t underestimate the small, Napoleon

Posted 11 July 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

Disease often played a decisive role in conflicts during the 18th and 19th century. Hygiene on battlefields was lacking and soldiers suffered from malnutrition more often than not. Immune systems were out of shape, rendering man and beast susceptible to disease. Napoleon, often painted with one hand tucked in his waistcoat, was possibly scratching his hairy (?) chest rather often. He lost more soldiers to biting insects and their payloads, than in combat. During his efforts to defeat the Turks... Read more

Medieval Era Mass Destruction

Posted 4 July 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

1347 - 1351: The Black Death crawls through Europe. The origins of the pandemic can be traced back to the Crimean peninsula, with one incident of germ warfare catching the eye as a potential catalyst: The siege of Kaffa.     1346, Crimea: The city of Kaffa is under siege by the Mongol army led by Janibeg, last Khan of the Golden Horde. His soldiers are coming down with the bubonic plague, the army is devastated. Janibeg is about to... Read more

Let’s chuck some corpses

Posted 27 June 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg

The History of Biological Warfare, Part 4 “...dyverse great engyns […] cast in deed horses, and beestes stinking, wherby they within had great[er] dystres than with any other thynge, for the ayre was hote as in the myddes of somer: the stynke and ayre was so abdominable, that they considered howe that finally they coude nat long endure.” J. Froissart, The Siege of Thun l’Eveque (1340) In 1337, King Edward III of England had the rather provocative idea to lay... Read more