Skip to main content

Go Big Read book ‘The Poison Squad’ featured on WPR’s ‘Chapter a Day’

September 30, 2019 By Käri Knutson
Photo: Blank handing book to student

Chancellor Rebecca Blank helps distribute complimentary copies of “The Poison Squad,” the 2019-20 selection for Go Big Read, at Convocation. Photo: Bryce Richter

Read any good books lately? Perhaps you’d like to listen to one.

Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Chapter a Day” is making that possible by featuring “The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” by Deborah Blum. Listen in as Jim Fleming reads from the book at 12:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekdays Sept. 30 through October 25 or at through Nov. 22.

Deborah Blum Photo by Mark Bennington

The book is the 2019-20 Go Big Read selection, UW–Madison’s common reading program. Blum will discuss her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Memorial Union Theater – Shannon Hall. No tickets are required. Sign language interpreting and real-time CART captioning will be provided.

Blum’s book pays tribute to Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, dubbed the “father of the pure food and drug act.” Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department in 1883, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, “The Poison Squad.”

Smithsonian Magazine named “The Poison Squad” one of the top 10 science books of 2018.

Blum earned her master’s degree in environmental journalism in 1982 from UW–Madison. In 1992, she won the Pulitzer Prize for a series on primate research, which she turned into a book, “The Monkey Wars.”

She returned to UW–Madison as a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1997 to 2015. Since 2015, she has been director of Knight Science Journalism at MIT.

The Go Big Read program is an initiative of the Office of the Chancellor. The program engages members of the campus community and beyond in a shared, academically focused reading experience.

For more information, visit