Porton Down

From Academic Kids

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, or often known more simply as Porton Down, is a United Kingdom government facility for military bio-chemical research. It is located near Salisbury in Wiltshire, England, and is operated by the Ministry of Defence Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

History

It was originally set up in 1916 as the Royal Engineers Experimental Station as a site for testing chemical weapons. The laboratory's task was to research into the use of chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas by the British armed forces which were to be used in the First World War.

In the mid-1950s, work concentrated on nerve agents and tests were carried out on servicemen to determine the effects of nerve agents on humans, with one recorded death due to a nerve gas experiment. There have been persistent allegations of unethical human experimentation at Porton Down, such as those relating to the death of Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, aged 20, in 1953 who thought he was taking part in trials to cure the common cold, but was subjected to the nerve agent sarin being dripped on to his sleeve and later died as a result. There have also been allegations of covert links between Porton Down and the Common Cold Unit. All of these allegations have been denied by the Ministry of Defence.

As of 2004, Wiltshire police are carrying out an investigation, Operation Antler, into these allegations; no prosecutions have yet followed from the investigations.

Most of the work carried out at Porton Down has to date remained secret, and the UK Government have been criticised for not revealing the true extent of the research that was carried out on unwitting servicemen.

A second inquest on Ronald Maddison commenced in May 2004, after many years of lobbying by his relatives and their supporters. It later found the death of Ronald Maddison to have been unlawful [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/4013767.stm), however this has since been challenged by the Ministry of Defence. [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/wiltshire/4459217.stm)

Until 2001 Porton Down was part of the UK government's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. DERA was spilt into QinetiQ, initially a fully government owned company, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). DSTL incorporates all of DERA's activities deemed unsuitable for the privatisation planned for QinetiQ, particularly Porton Down.

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