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Bio-warfare research pioneer dies

Microbiologist Riley D. Housewright dies aged 89

Emma Hitt(emma@emmasciencewriter.com)

Riley D. Housewright, a microbiologist who led the US biological warfare program during the Cuban missile crisis, died in Frederick, Maryland on January 11, at the age of 89.

Housewright retired from Fort Detrick, then home of the United States Army Biological Laboratories, in 1970, having been assigned there as a young microbiologist in 1943. From 1946 to 1951 he was chief of the Microbial Physiology and Chemotherapy Branch of the Medical Bacteriology Division. He then became chief of the Medical Bacteriology Division, and in 1956, became scientific director.

When Housewright first joined Fort Detrick, a classified research program was underway to counter potential biological attacks by Japan and Germany. Housewright worked on developing anthrax spores that could be used in weapons and made highly concentrated botulinum toxin.

Although the US never deployed biological weapons during the war, the military's interest in developing relatively low-cost germ warfare continued during...

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