If he were starring in a campy horror flick, Tim Rowbotham might have gasped and whispered, “It’s alive!” As a microbiologist with Britain’s Public Health Laboratory Service, he had isolated an unknown microorganism from an amoeba growing in a water tower in Bradford, England. Rowbotham baptized the entity “Bradford coccus.” He added his new specimen to the collection of bacteria that live within amoebas and continued the search for the cause of a pneumonia outbreak plaguing the citizens of Bradford.
But Rowbotham hadn’t discovered a bacterium. He had actually found a gigantic virus—one so large and possessing such a peculiar mixture of traits that it is challenging the very notion of what it means to be alive.
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