William C. Patrick III made enough germs to kill everyone on earth many times over. Then, after putting aside those living weapons, he worked for nearly four decades to build defenses against them, to better protect the United States from biological attack.
A scientist, Mr. Patrick made germ weapons for the American military from 1951 to 1969. He produced tons of deadly agents, like the microbe anthrax, which, when inhaled, causes fever, cough, vomiting, chills, shock and coma, usually ending in death. He received five patents, all of them granted secretly.
His production of these microscopic killers ended in 1969 when the Nixon administration decided that the nation could survive the cold war without the benefit of Mr. Patrick’s black art. He then devoted himself to germ defenses, working for the government and as a private consultant.
Mr. Patrick, 84, died of bladder cancer on Oct. 1 at a nursing home in Frederick, Md., said his wife, Virginia
He had become one of the government’s most trusted advisers. He consulted for the Secret Service, testified before Congress and helped analyze cases of germ terrorism for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also helped the Central Intelligence Agency assess the threat of germ attacks.
Mr. Patrick made lots of friends in the federal government and the corporate world, thanks in no small part to an outgoing manner and a dark sense of humor. His business card bore a skull and crossbones, and atop his stationery was a drawing of the Grim Reaper, the scythe labeled “Biological Warfare” and the figure’s outstretched arm sowing germs.
William Capers Patrick III was born on July 24, 1926, in Ridgeland, S.C., the only child of a produce broker. He served in the Army in World War II and afterward went to the University of South Carolina and then the University of Tennessee, from which he received a master’s degree in microbiology in 1949.
In an interview he said:
I can make a very good case for biological warfare as a more humane way of fighting war than with the atom bomb and chemical warfare. We can incapacitate a population with less than 1 percent of the people becoming ill and dying. And then we take over facilities that are intact. When you bomb a country, you not only kill people but you destroy the very facilities that are needed to treat them-the electricity, water, all the infrastructure is gone when you bomb.
Then, on the other hand, the Times reveals a jovial, almost maniacal stance on his germ projects: "His business card bore a skull and crossbones, and atop his stationery was a drawing of the Grim Reaper, the scythe labeled "Biological Warfare" and the figure's outstretched arm sowing germs." Charming!
And then, in 1969, Nixon's Pentagon had a change of heart, deciding that the US didn't need a germ arsenal to face off against the Russians. And with Nixon, went Patrick. He spent the rest of his life helping the government devise plans to defend against the exact same sorts of bio-attacks he spent the heart of his career making possible, aiding the United Nations expose Saddam Hussein's plan for an Iraqi germ warfare plan, and helping the FBI respond to the post-9/11 anthrax attacks—murders committed with his own weapon.
And now, he's gone—dead from cancer. It's hard to eulogize a dude like this, but we think the the Times concludes with all that you need to know: before shuffling off this germy coil, Patrick "expressed no regrets about his arms work, saying he was comfortable with memories of killing animals and finding new ways to produce death." [nytimes], [Gizmodo]