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The Obscure Virus Club| Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E10/S4 (Transcript)

The Obscure Virus Club

Episode 10| Season 4| Revisionist History
Length: 37 mins | Released: August 22, 2019

To see the full transcript, go here.

NOTE: Episodes 3 -11 are contained in one interactive project. Click the down arrow to the right of the episode name to select it.

Malcolm Gladwell: In the second half of the 20th century, a group of scientists became obsessed with an obscure family of viruses. There weren’t many people in the Obscure Virus Club. They all knew each other. The rest of the world rolled its eyes at them.

Malcolm Gladwell: Read the letter.

Robert Gallo: Ok. “Dear Bob, I regret that your paper on the T-cell retrovirus is not acceptable for publication in the Journal of Virology.”

Malcolm Gladwell: Exhibit A in the archives of the Obscure Virus Club, a rejection letter.

Robert Gallo: “I completely agree with reviewer number one. There’s little point in perpetuating this controversy about the presumed viral nature of this material.”

Malcolm Gladwell: Not, “Thank you very much. This is fascinating, but you’re not quite there yet,” just no.

Robert Gallo: “I hope you understand we can only accept definitive data to resolve this question. Therefore, I have no alternative but to reject this paper outright and advise you we cannot consider the present manuscript in any form.”

Malcolm Gladwell: “In any form.” If you were in the Obscure Virus Club, you got this a lot. It didn’t stop them, thank God.

Malcolm Gladwell: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You’re listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This is the final episode of Season 4, a season of Jesuits and lawyers and gangsters and disputatious musicians, iconoclasts and skeptics, and I want to finish with the story of the Obscure Virus Club, maybe the biggest band of iconoclasts of all. This is a bedtime story for this season of Revisionist History. And, as with any story, you have to wait to the very end to understand what it’s all about.

Malcolm Gladwell: The Obscure Virus Club had adjunct members, honorary members, hangers-on, but I want to focus on the three people at its core, Ludwig Gross, Howard Temin, Robert Gallo.

Malcolm Gladwell: Bob Gallo is the only one still alive, 82 years old, still at the office every day. He has pictures of his old compatriots on his walls.

Robert Gallo: I think he sent this to me.

Malcolm Gladwell: Oh, there he is.

Robert Gallo: With his wife, yeah. This is just the… Unforgettable character, but that captures him, you know?

Malcolm Gladwell: Yeah.

Malcolm Gladwell: First, Ludwig Gross, head of Cancer Research for the Veterans Administration in the Bronx. Gallo remembers asking him whether he wanted to get rich. Gross told him no, he had everything he needed and he counted it off. First, he had his car, he’d escaped Poland in his car after the Nazis invaded.

Robert Gallo: He drove everywhere. When he came to see me at NIH, he drove from New York. His first experiments were in the backseat trunk of his car. So he said, “Number two, I have my television. I can see Perry Mason.” He was a Perry Mason addict. “Number three, I have my work, and number four, I have my wife.”

Malcolm Gladwell: That’s it?

Robert Gallo: That’s Ludwig Gross.

Malcolm Gladwell: At scientific meetings in the 1950s, people wouldn’t sit next to Ludwig Gross. Everyone thought he was crazy.

To see the full transcript, go here and select the episode.

Transcripts for the entire Season 1–4 podcasts of Revisionist History are available here.

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