Pathogens for War: Biological Weapons, Canadian Life Scientists, and North American Biodefence

Pathogens for War: Biological Weapons, Canadian Life Scientists, and North American Biodefence

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By Donald Avery
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
448 Pages
ISBN 9781442614246
Published May 2013
Online discount: 15%
 $37.95    $32.26
ISBN 9780802089717
Published May 2013
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442665019
Published Apr 2013
Online discount: 26%
Full purchase $37.95

Pathogens for War explores how Canada and its allies have attempted to deal with the threat of germ warfare, one of the most fearful weapons of mass destruction, since the Second World War. In addressing this subject, distinguished historian Donald Avery investigates the relationship between bioweapons, poison gas, and nuclear devices, as well as the connection between bioattacks and natural disease pandemics. Avery emphasizes the crucially important activities of Canadian biodefence scientists – beginning with Nobel Laureate Frederick Banting – at both the national level and through cooperative projects within the framework of an elaborate alliance system.

Delving into history through a rich collection of declassified documents, Pathogens for War also devotes several chapters to the contemporary challenges of bioterrorism and disease pandemics from both national and international perspectives. As such, readers will not only learn about Canada’s secret involvement with biological warfare, but will also gain new insights into current debates about the peril of bioweapons – one of today’s greatest threats to world peace.

Donald Avery is an emeritus professor and adjunct research professor in the Department of History at Western University.


Chapter 1: Canada’s Role in BW Planning in World War II

Chapter 2: Bioweapons in the Early Cold War: Scientific Research, Civil Defence and International Controversies, 1946-54

Chapter 3: Realizing Its Potential: Operational Biological, Weapons and Alliance Cooperation, 1955-1969

Chapter 4: Canada and BW Disarmament: National and International Developments, 1968-1975

Chapter 5: Biodefence, Terrorism and Pandemics, 1970-85

Chapter 6: The Bioweapons Threat: States Parties and Terrorists, 1985-2000

Chapter 7: Biodefence After 9/11: New Directions & Old Problems


Pathogens for War is a high quality, complete historical survey of Canada’s involvement in biological weapons research from its emergence just before the Second World War to the present day. Very nicely contextualized to provide a sense of how Canadian biological weapons–related activities connected to contemporary events, it also provides fresh insight into the delicate balancing of relations with other nations such as the US and Great Britain. Donald Avery makes full use of an unprecedented access to previously classified material to bring out engagingly the enduring tensions of pursuing secret science in a democracy.”

Brian Balmer, Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London

Pathogens for War is a significant contribution to the field – there is no similar book that places the threats and responses to  biological warfare, bioterrorism, and pandemics within a Canadian national context in existence. I am impressed by how Donald Avery brings together different strands of biological threat  issues, blending detail and context and linking them together holistically for the reader. I expect to find this book in every university library, and it should sit on the shelves of those interested in health emergency management and of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism experts.”

Jez Littlewood, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University

‘A welcome addition to a burgeoning and increasingly sophisticated field of study… Donald Avery’s book offers new insights into a largely neglected aspect of Canada’s military and bio-defence history in the twentieth century which will be of great value to research scientists, humanities scholars, and bioethicists worldwide.’

Ulf Schmidt, Social History of Medicine, vol 27:04:2014

‘Professor Donald Avery has written the most definitive available history of the Canadian biological warfare program.’

John Ellis van Courtland Moon, Bulletin of the History of Medicine vol 88:02:2014