Since 1995 Arthur Allen has been writing articles and books, mostly about science and medicine, for publications such as The Washington Post, Science, Smithsonian, Landscape Architecture, The New Republic and Slate.com. His 2007 book Vaccine was the first major U.S. work to examine the anti-vaccine movement, and he has written many articles about the science and anthropology of vaccines. In 2010 he published Ripe, a foray into the world of tomato breeding, genetics, culture and food snobbism, which allowed him to spend time in southern Italy, Mexico and western China.
Allen's new book is The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis.
From the author's Q & A with Stacy Herlihy for the Times of Israel:
How did you come up with the idea for this book?Learn more about The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis.
My book Vaccine (WW Norton, 2007) has a chapter titled “War is Good for Children.” It’s primarily about research funded by the U.S. military to develop vaccines. Armies are interested in vaccines because they want their troops to stay healthy. During World War II, military-funded labs came up with new vaccines against flu, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and, finally typhus. I wrote a small amount about the U.S. typhus vaccine in the book and while doing the work I read a small amount about these strange vaccines they were making in Poland during the war. I didn’t spent much time on that while writing the book, but the names Weigl and Fleck stuck in my mind. A few years ago I decided to see if I could find out anything more about them, and I did.
Can you tell us about your research process?
I always start out reading whatever secondary literature I can get my hands on. In this case, that meant books about the Nazi doctors, and typhus, and Buchenwald, and Auschwitz, and the city of Lwow, which is now Lviv, Ukraine. I probably read all or parts of about 300 books—trying to gain generalized knowledge for a while and pretty soon tunneling into the literature that seemed most linked to what I was after.
Pretty soon I developed a sense of my book’s narrative arc, how it would move along, and then I tried to populate the chapters. In the case of this book it...[read on]
Visit Arthur Allen's website.
My Book, The Movie: The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl.