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伟大的秘密 – The Great Secret: The Classified World War II Disaster that Launched the War on Cancer by Jennet Conant

人们怎么也想不到,“二战”时期德国对巴里港的一次毁灭性空袭竟然启发科学家发现了癌症的化学疗法。本书讲述了这段不为人知的历史,揭示了亚历山大如何与军方的保密机制抗争,排除各方阻力,艰难地得出这一重要发现。

1943年12月2日,德国空袭位于意大利的巴里港。在这次空袭中,上百吨芥子气炸弹泄漏,造成约1 000名盟军或海员死亡。事后,盟军高层将领决定隐瞒此事,因为秘密持有化学武器这一点无论从战术上还是舆论上都对盟军不利。由于丘吉尔和艾森豪威尔决心掩盖此事,空袭巴里港成为“二战”时期秘密的军事事件。

中校斯图尔特•亚历山大是此次事件的亲历者,也是真相大白的重要的推动者。他经过专业、缜密的调查,发现了受害者病历中的异常之处,得出芥子气可能会对癌症有治疗功效的结论。他对此事的调查受到了军方的阻挠,但他没有放弃对真相的追求,而是不顾个人安危,尽己所能,将报告呈交给他能接触到的人士,使得后人在重新调查此次事故时有了一手资料,也揭开了科学家用化学疗法治疗癌症的序幕。

随着科学的发展,癌症的化学疗法将慢慢退出历史的舞台。但亚历山大从战争的废墟中发现化疗方法的故事,不但使得更多癌症患者因此有了生的希望,也使得那些在巴里港事件中无辜枉死或身受重伤的众多受害者的牺牲有了更多的意义。

On the night of December 2, 1943, the Luftwaffe bombed a critical Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking seventeen ships and killing over a thousand servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise air raid was the John Harvey, an American Liberty ship carrying a top-secret cargo of 2,000 mustard bombs to be used in retaliation if the Germans resorted to gas warfare.

When one young sailor after another began suddenly dying of mysterious symptoms, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Alexander, a doctor and chemical weapons expert, was dispatched to investigate. He quickly diagnosed mustard gas exposure, but was overruled by British officials determined to cover up the presence of poison gas in the devastating naval disaster, which the press dubbed “little Pearl Harbor.” Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower acted in concert to suppress the truth, insisting the censorship was necessitated by military security.

Alexander defied British port officials and heroically persevered in his investigation. His final report on the Bari casualties was immediately classified, but not before his breakthrough observations about the toxic effects of mustard on white blood cells caught the attention of Colonel Cornelius P. Rhoads—a pioneering physician and research scientist as brilliant as he was arrogant and self-destructive—who recognized that the poison was both a killer and a cure, and ushered in a new era of cancer research led by the Sloan Kettering Institute. Meanwhile, the Bari incident remained cloaked in military secrecy, resulting in lost records, misinformation, and considerable confusion about how a deadly chemical weapon came to be tamed for medical use.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Great Secret is the remarkable story of how horrific tragedy gave birth to medical triumph.

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