Arthur Allen: The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis

4 Aug

This isn’t about autism, but it is about a book by an author known to the autism communities: Arthur Allen. Mr. Allen wrote a number of articles on autism, the vaccine debate and treatements (many of which can be found on Slate). His book Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver shows his excellent ability at telling a story.

So when I was driving home and heard Mr. Allen interviewed on Fresh Air I had to listen. At first because it was Arthur Allen. Then because of the story. The segment was called

How Scientists Created A Typhus Vaccine In A ‘Fantastic Laboratory’: Arthur Allen’s new book The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl describes how a WWII scientist in Poland smuggled the typhus vaccine to Jews — while his team made a weakened version for the Nazis.

It’s well worth a listen. How Scientists Created A Typhus Vaccine In A ‘Fantastic Laboratory’ tells of his new book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis. I can’t do the story anywhere near the justice that Mr. Allen gives in his interview, but in a sentence the story is how typhus is transmitted, and how scientists in occupied Poland (now Ukraine) were forced by the Nazis to produce a vaccine and also managed to supply the vaccine to people in the ghettos of Poland and the camp at Buchenwald.

I’ve got the book on order and I hope to read it on an upcoming trip (I rarely get the time to read entire books, but this is one I’m making time for). I hope to come back with a review. In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal has a review up:

Book Review: ‘The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl’ by Arthur Allen
Two scientists who worked to beat typhus and sabotage the Nazis.


By Matt Carey
yes, I realize this has very little to nothing to do with autism.

5 Responses to “Arthur Allen: The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis”

  1. reissd August 4, 2014 at 23:45 #

    I have the Kindle version and am a third of the way through it. It’s excellent. Rich, well written, a compelling story. I recommend it.

  2. Chris August 5, 2014 at 00:07 #

    Hey, I have a connection! I received two doses of typhus vaccine before our family moved to Venezuela. During a bit over three month period I also received two smallpox, a typhoid, a yellow fever, a diphtheria/tetanus and a polio vaccine.

    The “too many too soon” argument doesn’t really resonate with me.

  3. Jake Crosby August 5, 2014 at 22:04 #

    “The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis”

    Shouldn’t it be “How One Brave Scientist…”? Otherwise why not just include the other scientist’s name in the title?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 5, 2014 at 22:50 #

      I’m not Arthur Allen, but let’s see if I can come up with an answer (if not necessarily the answer).

      I assume you are referring to Ludwik Fleck, whose laboratory was set up separate from the Wiegl laboratory before the war and who later worked in labs in Buchenwald and Auschwitz. So, during the war there were two laboratories going on. But both trace back to the original Weigl laboratory (Fleck having trained with Weigl and later worked for Weigl in his lab). Since the story goes back to WWI (at least) and the Weigl laboratory and discusses the history of his work (including teaching Fleck) up to and through the war, it is appropriate to discuss this as the Wiegl laboratory and the two scientists (Weigl and Fleck) who led teams during the war.

      • reissd August 5, 2014 at 23:24 #

        That’s exactly right. Fleck was originally Wiegl’s student, and it was Wiegl who had the original pre-war lab, but during the war Fleck was also forced to create typhus vaccine by the Nazis.

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