Aaron Huey, Getty Images

任务:拯救环境

切维蔡斯,马里兰州—想象这样的图景。在1966年,你站在华盛顿的一间政府办公室里,看到一位身着制服的官员对一位商务打扮的人说:“你的任务是消灭一个敌人,这个敌人杀掉的人比两次世界大战加起来还要多。你将获得一丁点儿预算、一个小团队,如果你失败了,部长将否认知情你的行动。”

听起来像是好莱坞电影场景。是的,这就是当年首播的《碟中谍》电视剧的的开头。但它确实发生了,只不过用的不是这些词句。官员是助理军医处长詹姆斯·沃特(James Watt);获得任务的是传染病中心(CDC)科学家唐纳德·亨德森(Donald Henderson);而敌人是天花。

这个任务看上去绝对是不可能完成的。当时,每年天花杀死的人数高达两百万,另有1,500万人被传染。亨德森和他的世界卫生组织(WHO)团队超越了人们的预期。只花了十年略多的时间,天花就成为第一个——到目前为止也是唯一一个——被完全根除的人类传染病。

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