The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

This is one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long time—and it’s not fiction! Published in 2002, it chronicles the strange tale of Smallpox, its world-wide eradication, and the lingering threat of its return. Millions are alive today thanks to the efforts of D. A. Henderson (2) (who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002), the World Health Organization, and an army of public health workers. Smallpox is probably the worst disease the human race has ever known, and now it’s gone—well almost… The demon lives on in at least two freezers, one at the CDC in Atlanta and one in Russia. But there is no way to know how many other caches exist. In a cruel twist of fate, the fact that smallpox no longer exists “in the wild” makes it well suited for bioterrorism! It is the biological eqivalent of an atom bomb, and perhaps worse. This New Yorker article by Preston summarizes the major themes of the book.