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Deborah Blum and “The Poison Squad”

Now that we have announced our awesome Go Big Read book for 2019/2020, here’s a little more about the book and it’s author, Deborah Blum.

The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century follows the story and struggle of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley and his fight for pure, unadulterated food.

Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department in 1883, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, “The Poison Squad.”

The Poison Squad has been chosen for the 2019/2020 Go Big Read book .

Through tumultuous government scandals and shifting political tides, Dr. Wiley continued to push for restrictions on harmful preservatives, like formaldehyde and borax, and government regulations on labeling requirements: ultimately, leading to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, also known as “Dr. Wiley’s Law, which established the basis of food quality regulation still prevalent today.

This year’s Go Big Read book was written by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author, Deborah Blum.

The Poison Squad author, Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum attended UW-Madison for graduate school and studied science writing in the journalism school’s specialized reporting program; ultimately, continuing on to become a professor of journalism for UW for eighteen years from 1997 to 2015. Blum has written for many notable news outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Scientific American. Today, she is the director for MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program and publisher of the award-winning magazine, Undark.

For more information on Deborah Blum and The Poison Squad, check out the publisher’s website: The Poison Squad

Olivia Poches

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office