As the tropical wildernesses of the world are destroyed, and nature's balance is thereby upset, previously unknown viruses are ready to emerge from the wreckage and enter human populations. In 1967 in Germany, a healthy monkey-keeper died a remarkably swift and gruesome death which mystified the medical profession. Outbreaks of a similarly ruthless disease occurred in tropical Africa during the 1970s, wiping out whole villages. Scientists were later able to identify the causes: lethal, highly infectious "hot" viruses from the tropical rain forest. This is an account of events which took place in 1989, when one such dangerous virus crossed continents and broke out inside a house of imported monkeys, a mere stone's throw from the White House. It describes the drama that later unfolded among the team of American laboratory workers and scientists who discovered the virus in the monkey-house, and struggled to contain it.
Richard Preston was born in 1954 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and received a Ph.D from Princeton University. He is the author of The Hot Zone (about lethal viruses); American Steel (about the Nucor Corporation's project to build a revolutionary steel mill); and First Light (about astronomy and astronomists) which won the American Institute of Physics award in science writing. An asteroid has been named 'Preston' in honour of First Light. Preston is a lump of rock the size of lower Manhattan. It is likely to some day collide with Mars or the Earth. Richard Preston is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and has won numerous awards, including the AAAS-Westinghouse Award and the McDermott Award in the Arts from MIT.