chemical and biological warfare

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chemical and biological warfare

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BARCROFT, Joseph (1872 - 1947), Director of Unit of Animal Physiology (Agricultural Research Council), since 1941; Fellow and formerly Lecturer, King’s College, Cambridge; Member, Chemical Warfare Committee of the War Office, 1917, and formerly of the Ministry of Munitions; Member, Chemical Board, Ministry of Supply, 1939; Member, Army Medical Directorate Consultative Committee, 1928–43, RAF Medical Advisory Board and Agricultural Research Council, 1938–43; Chairman, Food Investigation Board; Member, Advisory Council of Department, Scientific and Industrial Research, 1939–44; Foreign Member, Société Royale des Sciences Medicales et Naturelles de Bruxelles; Konigle Danske Videnskabernes Selskub; K. Akademie Halle; Société de Chemie Biologique, Paris; Chinese Physiological Society; American Physiological Society; Corr. Member, Société de Biologie, Paris, Czeckoslovak Society of Physicians, Bratislav, Czeck Society of Physicians, Prague; and Des Moines Academy of Medicine; Hon. Member, National Academy of Buenos Aires, Biological Society of Argentina, Kungl Fysiografiska Sällekapets i Lund, National Academy of Medicine of Mexico and American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Foreign Associate Member, National Academy of Sciences; Foreign Associate Member, National Academy of Sciences, USA


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The use of synthetic poisonous substances, or organisms such as disease germs, to kill or injure the enemy. They include chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas (first used in World War I), various nerve gases, defoliant agents, and viruses and bacteria (for example, anthrax). The use of chemical and biological weapons is prohibited by the Geneva Convention, but their production, possession, or transfer are not. Unlike their World War I counterparts, modern chemical weapons are sophisticated and may be delivered by long-range artillery, missile, or sprayed from aircraft. To be effective, the chemicals must be inhaled or come into contact with skin. The main defence against them is protective clothing – gas masks and special suits made of rubber or treated synthetic cloth. Biological weapons were banned under the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, but research production was permitted for defensive purposes. Agreement regarding the limitation of chemical and biological weapons stands high on the agenda of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, but many states, particularly in the developing world, are reluctant to give up possession of such weapons because they consider them to be a form of deterrence. Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes were a prominent issue in the 1990s following the Gulf War and were used to justify the Iraq War of 2003. However, no such weapons were found after Iraq's defeat.

Subjects: Military History.

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