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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

Science, Secrecy, and the Smithsonian The Strange History of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program

By: Ed Regis(Author)
200 pages
Science, Secrecy, and the Smithsonian
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  • Science, Secrecy, and the Smithsonian ISBN: 9780197520338 Hardback Apr 2023 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £24.49
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

This is the story of how the Smithsonian Institute became intertwined in a secret biological warfare project.

During the 1960s, the Smithsonian Institution undertook a large-scale biological survey of a group of uninhabited tropical islands in the Pacific. It was one of the largest and most sweeping biological survey programs of all time, a six-year-long enterprise during which Smithsonian personnel banded 1.8 million birds, captured live specimens and took blood samples, and catalogued the avian, mammalian, reptile, and plant life of 48 Pacific islands.

But there was a twist. The study had been initiated, funded, and overseen by the U.S. Biological Laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The home of the American biological warfare program. In signing the contract to perform the survey, the Smithsonian became a literal subcontractor to a secret biological warfare project. And by participating in the survey, the Smithsonian scientists were paving the way for top-secret biological warfare tests in the Pacific.

Critics charged the Smithsonian with having entered into a Faustian bargain that made the institution complicit in the sordid business of biological warfare, a form of combat which, if it were ever put into practice and used against human populations, could cause mass disease, suffering, and death. The Smithsonian had no proper role in any such activities, said the critics, and should never have undertaken the survey.

Science, Secrecy, and the Smithsonian: The Strange History of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program explores the workings of the survey program, places it in its historical context, describes the military tests that followed, and evaluates the critical objections to the Smithsonian's participation in the project.



Chapter 1. Secrecy Comes to the Smithsonian
Chapter 2. Recruitment
Chapter 3. Prequels
Chapter 4. Life in the Field
Chapter 5. The Artificial Atoll
Chapter 6. Project 112
Chapter 7. "Bird Bombs"
Chapter 8. The Military Payoff
Chapter 9. The "Secret" Emerges
Chapter 10. Fate of the Islands
Chapter 11. Aftermath and Aftereffects


Customer Reviews


Ed Regis holds a PhD in philosophy from New York University and is the author of ten science books. He lives with his wife, Pam, and Kerry Blue terrier, Razzle, near Camp David in the Maryland mountains.

By: Ed Regis(Author)
200 pages
Media reviews

"In his well-written book about the Pacific Program, author Ed Regis provides a detailed description on how the POBSP was organized, the islands visited and their wildlife or about the people involved in the program...The book is enjoyable to read and a welcome addition to the history of biological warfare. The book is therefore highly recommended."
– Robert Petersen, Special consultant at the Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness, Statens Serum Institute

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