Critically analyze the story "the stolen bacillus"

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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H.G. Wells's "The Stolen Bacillus" is a satirical short story about the potential role of science and scientists in facilitating bio-terrorism.  This is done by having a very intelligent bacteriologist being ignorant about the consequences of his work.  I often think that some scientists are so involved with whether or not they can do something that they do not bother considering whether or not they should do something. Wells is making that exact point with the bacteriologist in the story.  The character is obviously intelligent when it comes to his field.  He is capable of working with these dangerous biologicals, and he understands how easily they could wipe out a population, but he doesn't consider that someone might actually do it.  He's ignorant about motivations of people like the anarchist. 

The anarchist steals a vial of bacteria and runs out.  The bacteriologist runs after the man. His wife is appalled at his appearance and runs after her husband with his shoes, coat, and hat.  The anarchist breaks and ingests the bacteria, and the scientist lets him go.  

It turns out the bacteria is not a population killing machine.  The only reason the bacteriologist gave chase was because he didn't want to have to start his work over again. The final few paragraphs really drive home the satire of the story, because Wells does a great job of portraying the bacteriologist as an absent minded professor.  He's unaware of his clothing appearance.  He is bothered by the "trouble and expense of preparing some more" bacteria.  He is not at all concerned about the possibility that the anarchist very well could have gotten a hold of some very deadly disease.  Wells really makes his reader consider the fact that it is possible that there are scientists working all over the place with a variety of deadly concoctions with no consideration for security or the potential consequences of their work. 

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