Tucker, Jonathan B. 1954– (Jonathan Brin Tucker)

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Tucker, Jonathan B. 1954–(Jonathan Brin Tucker)


Born August 2, 1954, in Boston, MA; son of Leonard W. (a civil engineer) and Deborah Alice Brin (a librarian and English teacher) Tucker; married Karen Fern Fifer, August 24, 1980 (divorced, October, 1982). Education: Yale University, B.S. (cum laude), 1975; University of Pennsylvania, M.A., 1982; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D., 1990. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Ballroom dancing, hiking.


Office—James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies/Monterey Institute of International Studies, 1400 E St. N.W., Ste. 450, Washington, DC 20005. E-mail—[email protected]


Yale Medical School, New Haven, CT, research assistant in neuropharmacology, 1975-76; Scientific American, New York, NY, associate editor, 1976-79; freelance science writer, 1979-83; High Technology magazine, Boston, MA, senior editor, 1983-85; U.S. Department of State, arms control fellow, 1989-90; U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, defense policy analyst, 1990-93; U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, foreign affairs specialist in Office of Chemical/Biological Policy, 1993-95; Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, senior policy analyst, 1995; Center for Nonproliferation Studies/Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, CA, and Washington, DC, director of Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program, 1996-2002, senior fellow, 2002—. Visiting fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA, 1999-2000; U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, DC, 2002-03; American Academy, Berlin, Germany, 2006; and German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany, 2006-07. Member of board of directors, Arms Control Association. Volunteer worker for Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) at refugee camps in Somalia, summer 1982.


Council on Foreign Relations.


Special Recognition Award, Leukemia Society of America, 1984; received fellowships from Robert Bosch Foundation, 1987-88, Ford Foundation, 1988-89, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989-90; Meritorious Honor Award, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1995.


Ellie: A Child's Fight against Leukemia, Holt (New York, NY), 1982.

(Editor, with Gale A. Mattox and Geoffrey D. Oliver) Germany in Transition: A Unified Nation's Search for Identity, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1999.

(Editor) Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with Raymond Zilinskas) The 1971 Smallpox Epidemic in Aralsk, Kazakhstan, and the Soviet Biological Warfare Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies (Monterey, CA), 2002.

Biosecurity: Limiting Terrorist Access to Deadly Pathogens, United States Institute of Peace (Washington, DC), 2003.

War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Arms Control Today, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times.


An unabridged recording of Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox was made by Blackstone Audiobooks, 2002.


Jonathan B. Tucker is both a writer on scientific issues, especially as they relate to international affairs, and a newsmaker on these topics. In the 1990s, while investigating what caused the illnesses observed in veterans of the Persian Gulf War, he voiced the minority opinion that chemical weapons were to blame. In the succeeding decade, he became a sought-after source of opinions on chemical and biological warfare—even more so as interest in the subject increased in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent circulation of anthrax spores through the mail.

Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, edited by Tucker, features studies of a dozen purported incidents of chemical and biological terrorism from 1945 through 1998. The contributors indicate that some of the incidents are doubtful; for instance, John Parachini finds that the first World Trade Center bombing—in 1993—did not involve chemical weapons. Nevertheless, some attacks are all too real, such as the nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo in 1995. Tucker introduces the case studies and draws lessons from them at the end. He concludes that the use of chemical and biological weapons by terrorist groups is rare but that even small groups and individuals are capable of acquiring such weapons. He also develops a profile of the people and groups likely to use chemical and biological agents—they are often isolated, paranoid, and followers of charismatic leaders. Several critics praised the book for its reasoned, non-alarmist approach. "Tucker provides a realistic assessment of terrorist capabilities based on historical events," commented Jim Murray in the publication Security Management. Leonard Cole, writing in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, called Toxic Terror "a thought-provoking volume" that "challenges—sometimes inadvertently—widespread assumptions about terrorism, especially when it is associated with chemical and biological weapons." Perspectives on Political Science contributor Beau Grosscup observed that "Toxic Terror makes a solid contribution to the field, particularly in its efforts to demythicize the issues and bring scholarship to an area that is often a subject of media fantasy."

In Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, Tucker provides a history of this once common disease, known to kill as many as two million people a year before modern medicine wiped it out; the last reported case was in the 1970s. Samples of the smallpox virus have remained in laboratories in the United States and Russia, however, and Tucker deals with the possibility that the virus could be deployed as a biological weapon. His history indicates that smallpox was used in this manner even in lower-tech times, with European colonists in the Americas giving smallpox-contaminated blankets to Indians. Bringing the subject up to 2001, he makes a case that even after the Soviet Union collapsed, its scientists continued to experiment with military uses for smallpox. "The real strength of Scourge lies in its recounting of the very recent history of smallpox," reported Robert Dorit in American Scientist, adding, "This is an insider's account of the potential uses of smallpox both as a state-sanctioned weapon and a tool for terrorism." Library Journal reviewer Tina Neville deemed the book "light on technical language," "accessible," and "engrossing," while a Publishers Weekly critic remarked, "Tucker breathes new life into mostly familiar material; the book is difficult to put down."

War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda, reported Michael Moodie in Arms Control Today, "reaffirms [Tucker's] stature as one of the world's leading experts on the dangers to global security posed by chemical weapons. His new book is a highly detailed, richly fascinating account of the emergence of chemical weapons through the 20th century, of the efforts to combat them, and of the continuing challenge they pose to the health and well-being of humankind." Tucker's focus in the book is less on the emergence of chemical weapons during World Wars I and II, and more on the ways in which the Cold War encouraged the creation and stockpiling of nerve gasses and other chemical agents. "Tucker's main points are not about warfare," stated a Publishers Weekly contributor: "his description of the 1995 Tokyo subway attack proves that with enough money, any madman can develop nerve gas." "Readers looking for an in-depth and balanced appraisal of the long, complex history of chemical warfare," declared Issues in Science and Technology reviewer Jez Littlewood, "will be well served by this book." "Tucker's study of the spasmodic progress of international conventions and the painfully slow destruction of the vast Cold War stocks in Russia and the United States," Martin Walker said in his Wilson Quarterly review, "does not make comforting reading. Perhaps that is why, like others who spent time in Iraq, I have not thrown away my gas mask."



American Scientist, March-April, 2002, Robert Dorit, "Smallpox, Then and Now," p. 172.

Arms Control Today, March, 2006, Michael Moodie, "Book Review: A Never-ending Story?," p. 46.

Booklist, February 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda, p. 11.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October, 2000, Leonard A. Cole, review of Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, p. 58.

California Bookwatch, May, 2006, review of War of Nerves.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June, 2006, R.E. Buntrock, review of War of Nerves, p. 1852.

Economist, December 1, 2001, review of Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox.

Issues in Science and Technology, fall, 2006, Jez Littlewood, "Chemical Weapons."

Journal of Military History, October, 2006, John Ellis van Courtland Moon, review of War of Nerves, p. 1194.

Library Journal, June 1, 1982, review of Ellie: A Child's Fight against Leukemia, p. 1105; August, 2001, Tina Neville, review of Scourge, p. 148; January 1, 2006, Daniel K. Blewett, review of War of Nerves, p. 135.

Middle East Journal, spring, 2006, John W. Middleton, review of War of Nerves.

Military Review, May 1, 2007, Peter L. Platteborze, review of War of Nerves, p. 122.

New York Review of Books, April 12, 2007, "The Poor Man's Atomic Bomb," p. 60.

New York Times, December 24, 1996, Philip Shenon, "Gulf War Panel Reviews Researcher's Ouster," p. A9; April 25, 1997, Philip Shenon, "Weapons Expert Tells of Possible Iraqi Gas Attacks in Gulf War," p. A15.

New York Times Book Review, October 28, 2001, Ed Regis, "Killing the Disease," p. 15.

Perspectives on Political Science, fall, 2000, Beau Grosscup, review of Toxic Terror, p. 248.

Publishers Weekly, May 21, 1982, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Ellie, p. 69; August 13, 2001, review of Scourge, p. 299; December 19, 2005, review of War of Nerves, p. 57.

Science, September 1, 2000, John T. Finn, review of Toxic Terror, p. 1479.

Science Books & Films, September, 1983, review of Ellie, p. 24.

Security Management, December, 2000, Jim Murray, review of Toxic Terror, p. 126.

Washington Post Book World, October 21, 2001, David Brown, "Something in the Air," p. 4; February 19, 2006, Stephen Engelberg, "Winds of Death: A Sober Look at the Use of Poison Gas Leaves Open the Question of How Worried We Should Be," p. 4.

Wilson Quarterly, Martin Walker, spring, 2006, "Weapons of Fear."


CNS James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies,http://cns.miis.edu/ (December 16, 2007), author bio.

Washington Post Online,http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/ (December 16, 2007), "America at War: Bioterrorism: Anthrax."

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Tucker, Jonathan B. 1954– (Jonathan Brin Tucker)

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