The brilliant but contentious Dr. Jeremy Stone, the thirty-six-year-old leader of the research project to find the source of the mysterious disease and its cure, has recently won the Nobel Prize for his work on bacteria. Stone was one of the scientists responsible for the Scoop project; he is ironically chosen to solve the problems that his brainchild originated. Stone is a tireless worker and is devoted to his team members and to the project.
Dr. Peter Leavitt is a man with a secret. Even though the scientists have to pass rigorous physical examinations before beginning work, Leavitt successfully hides his epilepsy. Finally, exhaustion and the blinking lights of the computer console bring on a seizure. Leavitt is left with the guilty knowledge that his duplicity might have caused the research project to fail. This seizure, incidentally, prevents Leavitt from noticing the one way in which the bacteria are vulnerable. The incident is only one of several unfortunate coincidences on which the plot entirely depends. Had Leavitt not gone into seizure, he would have discovered the weak spot of the bacteria and the menace would have been ended.
Just as Leavitt is wrong in trying to hide his condition, Dr. Charles Burton is careless in his scientific method. As the narrator observes, if Burton had only thought to perform an autopsy on the brains of certain research animals being exposed to the bacteria, perhaps the answer to the puzzle would have come...
(The entire section is 578 words.)