IBRARY OF CONGRESS VIA AP
by Helen Branswell
“Late one night Michael Worobey began poking around on the internet, looking for descendants of a World War I British military doctor named William Rolland.
“Rolland, a pathologist, had written a report in 1917, the year before the start of the Spanish flu. It described cases of British soldiers in France who had contracted an unusually fatal respiratory illness. Worobey, an evolutionary biology professor with a particular interest in the 1918 pandemic, wanted to know whether any of Rolland’s samples might still be lying about a century later.
“Within a few hours, he had found a possible contact and fired off an email. Across the Atlantic, 5,000 miles away, a retired family physician in England’s picturesque Lake District received it. He replied immediately.
“When Worobey read it, he was thunderstruck. “I almost fell out of my chair, for real,” he recalled. ‘I actually did cry real tears.’”