Medicine: Plagued

The sudden and unexpected death of a senior scientist at Britain's top-secret germ-warfare laboratory cried out for explanation. The first War Office announcement only stimulated curiosity. It was possible, said a cautious official spokesman, that Geoffrey Bacon, 44, had been killed by "an accidental infection resulting from his work." A post mortem examination two days later revealed the full horror of what had happened. Researcher Bacon had been a victim of pneumonic plague, a form of the fiercely contagious Black Death that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages, slaughtering millions and depopulating whole cities.

The government promptly alerted health officers in southern...

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