May 7, 1763: Early History
British soldiers, besieged by American Indian tribes during Pontiac’s Rebellion, give blankets infected with the smallpox virus to tribal representatives.
Guards patrol the gates at Porton Down Germ Warfare establishment. The British establish a secret facility at Porton Down to deal with the threat of chemical weapons.
June 17, 1925: Geneva Protocol
Spurred by the horrors of World War I, delegates in Switzerland create a Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical and bacteriological methods of warfare. However, countries are still allowed to research, develop, and produce these weapons. Thirty-nine countries sign the protocol, including the United States. Although the Senate refuses to ratify the treaty, the U.S. government says it will still abide by the terms.
U.S. Army Medical Corps Major Leon Fox publishes an article in the magazine Military Surgeon dismissing the idea of biological weapons. “Practically insurmountable difficulties prevent the use of biologic agents as effective weapons,” Fox writes.
1934: International Biological Weapons Research
Great Britain begins taking steps towards establishing its own biological weapons research project. Although the Medical Research Council is cool to the idea, Fildes agrees to assist the government.
September 19, 1939
In a speech, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler boasts of fearsome German weapons against which his enemies would be defenseless. This fuels speculations among Allied leaders about what weapons German scientists may be developing.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill receives a top-secret memo summarizing developments at Porton Down and reporting that cattle cakes laced with anthrax bacteria are the only biological weapons that currently can be deployed.