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
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Malcolm Gladwell: In the second half of the 20th century, a group of scientists became obsessed with an obscure family of viruses. There weren‚Äôt 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. ‚ÄúDear Bob, I regret that your paper on the T-cell retrovirus is not acceptable for publication in the Journal of Virology.‚Äù
Malcolm Gladwell: Exhibit A in the archives of the Obscure Virus Club, a rejection letter.
Robert Gallo: ‚ÄúI completely agree with reviewer number one. There‚Äôs little point in perpetuating this controversy about the presumed viral nature of this material.‚Äù
Malcolm Gladwell: Not, ‚ÄúThank you very much. This is fascinating, but you‚Äôre not quite there yet,‚Äù just no.
Robert Gallo: ‚ÄúI 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.‚Äù
Malcolm Gladwell: ‚ÄúIn any form.‚Äù If you were in the Obscure Virus Club, you got this a lot. It didn‚Äôt stop them, thank God.
Malcolm Gladwell: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You‚Äôre 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‚Äôs 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‚Ä¶ 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‚Äôd 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, ‚ÄúNumber two, I have my television. I can see Perry Mason.‚Äù He was a Perry Mason addict. ‚ÄúNumber three, I have my work, and number four, I have my wife.‚Äù
Malcolm Gladwell: That‚Äôs it?
Robert Gallo: That‚Äôs Ludwig Gross.
Malcolm Gladwell: At scientific meetings in the 1950s, people wouldn‚Äôt sit next to Ludwig Gross. Everyone thought he was crazy.
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