I first wrote The Last Plague as a pilot episode for a binge television series in early 2019. Not because I’m prescient. Or that I somehow saw the coming pandemic. Not at all. I’ve just always been fascinated by pronouncements made by scientists that were later discovered to be false.
“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1888
“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” WC Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954
Even Einstein, one of my favorites, I use his quotes at the beginning of every chapter of The Last Plague, didn’t get it right all the time.
“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Albert Einstein, 1932
I grew up during a different pandemic. Polio was the great fear of my parents and grandparents. Scientists worked feverishly for a vaccine to prevent the disease that was best summarized in iconic pictures of prone patients in iron lung machines.
Dr. Alton Oschner was so sure of the vaccine he developed that he injected his grandchildren with his experimental serum in front of colleagues at the medical center bearing his name in New Orleans. Within twenty-four hours, his grandson was dead, and his granddaughter was kept alive by an iron lung.
The Last Plague is about pushing the limits of medicine, about testing humans under the guise of scientific authority… and the consequences when things go awry.