The third time I visited D. Carleton Gajdusek, an ambulance was blocking the street outside his apartment building in Amsterdam. It had been there some time, and the drivers of the cars behind it lounged about outside. Some shook their heads and muttered to themselves or talked loudly into their mobile phones; some walked up and down; some shrugged their shoulders; others smoked cigarettes and waited patiently. Although it was summer, a misty Dutch rain had started to fall. I went inside and quickly up the stairs to his room.

A large, thickset man, partly dressed, was arguing with the ambulance officers. It was Carleton, who did not want them to take him to the emergency room at the Amsterdam Medical Center. He shouted and waved his arms in the air and paced the room. A friend of his who was visiting had...

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