|8,000 – 1,000 B.C.E.
||Trans-species jump of smallpox virus (variola)
from an unknown animal host into the human species.
||Death of Pharaoh Ramses V, possibly of smallpox
||The Plague of Athens during the Pelopponesian
War. May have been smallpox.
||The Chinese medical doctor Ho Kung gives an exact
description of smallpox and says it came into China “from
the west” around C.E. 40.
||Smallpox may have caused a decline in the population
of Italy, weakening the Roman empire and making it more vulnerable
to Barbarian attacks.
||The Persian medical doctor al-Razi (Rhazes) sees
a lot of smallpox while he’s the director of the Bagdhad
||Smallpox becomes endemic in Japan.
||Captain Panfilo de Narvaez lands in Mexico near
Veracruz. Smallpox escapes from an African slave who is a member
of his party and begins to spread through Mexico, central America,
and south America, ultimately killing roughly half the native
American population of those areas.
||During the Siege of Detroit (part of the French
and Indian War), British commander Sir Jeffrey Amherst orders
his men to infect the Ottawa tribes under Chief Pontiac with
smallpox. Smallpox then rages down the Ohio Valley, killing
many innocent civilian native Americans. This is the first known
deliberate use of smallpox as a strategic biological weapon.
|May 14, 1796.
||English doctor Edward Jenner demonstrates the
efficacy of his smallpox vaccine.
||Edward Jenner predicts the eradication of smallpox.
||Soviet public health doctor Viktor Zdanov calls
for the eradication of smallpox at the annual meeting of the
World Health Assembly.
||Evolutionary biologist Rene Dubos, in his famous
book Man Adapting, confidently predicts that no virus
or microbe will ever be eradicated from nature.
||Donald Ainslie (D. A.) Henderson appointed head
of the Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP) of the World Health
Organization, in Geneva, with a ten-year mission to eradicate
||Dr. William H. Foege of the SEP pioneers the
surveillance and ring-vaccination containment strategy for controlling
outbreaks of smallpox. He does this during a smallpox outbreak
in Nigeria when he and his team run out of sufficient vaccine
to mass vaccinate everyone in the area.
||Devastating typhoon hits Bhola Island in the
Bay of Bengal, in what is now Bangladesh.
||Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Brilliant and Wavy Gravy
and their wives set out in two buses to drive across Asia and
deliver medical supplies to Bhola Island. They end up leaving
their buses in Katmandu, Nepal.
||Larry Brilliant joins the Smallpox Eradication
||The Tatanagar Station outbreak of smallpox, epicentered
in Bihar, India.
|January – May, 1975
||The last large outbreak of variola major on earth,
||Dr. Stanly O. Foster finds the world’s
last natural case of variola major: a three-year-old girl named
Rahima Banu, on Bhola Island, Bangladesh.
||CDC pox virologist Joseph Esposito freezes six
scabs from Rahima Banu in the smallpox reference freezer at
the CDC in Atlanta. This is the Rahima strain of smallpox.
||Ali Maow Maalin of Somalia has the last case
of variola minor—the last natural case of smallpox on
||Janet Parker, of Birmingham, England, contracts
smallpox from the laboratory of Henry Bedson, a smallpox researcher.
||Henry Bedson commits suicide by slitting his
throat with a pair of scissors. Janet Parker and her father
|December 9, 1979
||Official date of the WHO certification of the
global eradication of smallpox.
||Soviet missile tests of a MIRV ICBM missile system
for delivering weapons-grade smallpox in warheads to cities
in North America.
||Soviet military biologists are storing at least
one, and possibly two, twenty-ton stockpiles of frozen smallpox
for use as a strategic weapon, in bombs and ICBM missile warheads
|October 27, 1989
||Dr. Christoper J. Davis, an analyst with British
intelligence, has the first major insight into the fact that
the Soviet Union has a strategic biological weapons program,
with the contagious weapons smallpox and plague. He will receive
an Order of the British Empire for his insight.
||Scientists at Vector, a Soviet virology complex
in Siberia, allegedly develop a new method for mass-producing
tonnage quantities of smallpox for loading into weapons systems.
||U.S. public health officials debate whether the
known stocks of smallpox should be destroyed, which would presumably
make smallpox extinct as a species. (They don’t know about
the Soviet biowarfare program with smallpox.)
||The WHO destroys 99.75 % of its stockpile of
smallpox vaccine, leaving the WHO with a total of one dose of
vaccine for every twelve thousand people on earth.
||Secret team of biological weapons inspectors
from the United States and Britain tours some of the scientific
facilities of Biopreparat, the Soviet Union’s vast, secret
biowarfare program. They discover evidence that scientists at
Vector, the Biopreparat virology facility in Siberia, have been
working with smallpox as a biological weapon.
||Fall of the Soviet government and breakup of
the Soviet Union. Establishment of the Russian Federation.
||By the account of Russian scientists, North Korea
acquires a Russian strain of smallpox, either by theft or by
buying it from an expatriate Russian scientist.
||J. Craig Venter, Joseph Esposito, and other sequence
the entire DNA of the Rahima strain of smallpox.
|1973 – present day
||Iraqi scientists are thought to be developing
and working with smallpox as a biological weapon. The Iraqi
research may include the technique of genetic engineering of
the smallpox virus’s DNA, to make smallpox more deadly
or evasive of the vaccine.
||The year in which Vector scientists claim to
have moved smallpox from a WHO repository in Moscow, without
the permission of the WHO, to Vector, in Siberia. (In fact,
smallpox has been at Vector all along.)
||The WHO votes again to destroy all the public
stocks of smallpox, with a deadline of June 30th, 1999
||Lisa Hensley goes to work as a post-doc at Usamriid,
at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and will end up working in the group
led by Peter Jahrling, a prominent virologist there.
|January 14, 1999
||The Ad Hoc Committee on Orthopoxvirus Infections
(the WHO’s expert advisory panel on smallpox) meets to
decide whether to destroy the stocks. D. A. Henderson passionately
argues for the destruction of the stocks. The panel votes to
||The U.S. government reverses its position and
pushes for the retention of smallpox stocks for research—principally
so that Peter Jahrling and his colleagues at USAMRIID can work
on new drugs and vaccines for smallpox.
|January 12, 2000
||Lisa Hensley nearly infects herself with Ebola
||First monkey model experiment with smallpox by
Peter Jahrling and John Huggins at the Maximum Containment Laboratory
(the MCL) at the CDC in Atlanta. The experiment does not yield
any useful result.
|September 2-3, 2000
||Peter Jahrling and Richard Moyer learn of the
Jackson-Ramshaw IL-4 mousepox experiment and object to its publication
on grounds that it is a blueprint for the biological equivalent
of a nuclear bomb—a recipe for a possibly vaccine-proof
||The Jackson-Ramshaw experiment is published in
the Journal of Virology.
|May 30, 2001
||Start of the second monkey model experiment at
the Maximum Containment Lab in Atlanta.
|June 4, 2002
||Lisa Hensley and Mark Martinez observe monkeys
dying of hemorrhagic smallpox in the Maximum Containment Lab.
This is the first time any species other than man has been seen
to die of smallpox virus.
|June 6, 2002
||A monkey nicknamed “Harper” develops
classical ordinary smallpox in the MCL. He survives his disease.
|September 11, 2001
||The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks by
al-Qaeda. The entire CDC is evacuated during the terror event.
||D. A. Henderson goes to work for the U.S. government
as a bioterrorism expert.
||Someone mails letters full of crumbly granular
anthrax to media figures in New York City—to Tom Brokaw
of NBC, and to CBS, ABC, and the New York Post.
||Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, in
Boca Raton, Florida, dies of inhalation anthrax (from a letter
that went through his mail bin).
||CDC epidemiologist Brad Perkins and his team
of investigators determine that Robert Stevens was infected
through the mail, and Perkins asks for the FBI to be brought
in “full force.”
||On or slightly before this date, someone mails
letters full of finely powdered weapons-grade anthrax to Senators
Daschle and Leahy.
||The Daschle letter containing powdered anthrax
is opened in the Hart Senate Office Building. Usamriid scientist
John Ezzell starts analysis of the powder in the letter and
finds it has the characteristics of a biological weapon.
||Usamriid scientists continue with analysis. Peter
Jahrling and Tom Geisbert are drawn into the case, fearing that
the Daschle letter may contain smallpox.
||Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy
Thompson asks Congress for enough money so that every American
can have a dose of smallpox vaccine.
||Tom Geisbert obtains the first very clear images
of the Daschle powder in its dry state, and discovers, to his
shock, that it looks like “moon rocks” and “skulls.”
||Postal workers from the Brentwood mail-sorting
facility are dying of anthrax.
||Top-security meeting at the Roosevelt Room in
the White House to discuss the anthrax terror emergency. Peter
Jahrling first begins to think that the anthrax terrorist(s)
could conceivably have been American, and could have manufacture
the anthrax in a small lab somewhere.
||Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins
School of Public Health, strongly objects to Peter Jahrling’s
monkey model experiments with smallpox, calling Jahrling and
his colleagues “idiots of the worst sort.”
|June 25, 2002
||FBI teams search the apartment of former Usamriid
scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill, in Frederick, just outside the
gates of Fort Detrick. The FBI says Hatfill is not a suspect
in the anthrax terror event. Hatfill strongly denies any involvement
in the anthrax attacks and says that he is cooperating with
the FBI in order to clear his name.
|January – July 2002
||The FBI investigation into the anthrax terror
attacks—Amerithrax—appears to stall out.