Virtual Event: Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley


Until Proven Safe:
The History and Future of Quarantine

moderated by CYNTHIA GRABER


July 29, 2021
7:00 PM ET


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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes GEOFF MANAUGH—author of the New York Times bestselling A Burglar’s Guide to the City—and award-winning writer NICOLA TWILLEY for a discussion of their co-authored book, Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine. Their conversation will be moderated by award-winning writer and radio producer CYNTHIA GRABER.

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About Until Proven Safe

Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley have been researching quarantine since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With Until Proven Safe, they bring us a book as compelling as it is definitive, not only urgent reading for social-distanced times but also an up-to-the-minute investigation of the interplay of forces—biological, political, technological—that shape our modern world.

Quarantine is our most powerful response to uncertainty: it means waiting to see if something hidden inside us will be revealed. It is also one of our most dangerous, operating through an assumption of guilt. In quarantine, we are considered infectious until proven safe.

Until Proven Safe tracks the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space—from the crumbling lazarettos of the Mediterranean, built to contain the Black Death, to an experimental Ebola unit in London, and from the hallways of the CDC to closed-door simulations where pharmaceutical execs and epidemiologists prepare for the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

But the story of quarantine ranges far beyond the history of medical isolation. In Until Proven Safe, the authors tour a nuclear-waste isolation facility beneath the New Mexican desert, see plants stricken with a disease that threatens the world’s wheat supply, and meet NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, tasked with saving Earth from extraterrestrial infections. They also introduce us to the corporate tech giants hoping to revolutionize quarantine through surveillance and algorithmic prediction.

We live in a disorienting historical moment that can feel both unprecedented and inevitable; Until Proven Safe helps us make sense of our new reality through a thrillingly reported, thought-provoking exploration of the meaning of freedom, governance, and mutual responsibility.

Praise for Until Proven Safe

“As Twilley and Manaugh reveal in this timely but timeless, ambitious and flawlessly executed account, quarantines have shaped our history—shifting geopolitical boundaries, fomenting racial hatreds, facilitating authoritarian control. The struggle to protect ourselves from invisible and deadly contagions is waged daily and largely out of sight—along borders and spore superhighways, in biosecure piggeries and nuclear waste facilities a half-mile underground. Quarantine: boring to live through, unbelievably interesting to read about.” —Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Grunt

"Strap on your plague beaks and round up the loose women! In this intrepid, occasionally creepy jaunt through seven centuries of disease control, Twilley and Manaugh prove that the past is never dead; it’s just in quarantine." —Alexis Coe, New York Times bestselling author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

Until Proven Safe combines history, geography, epidemiology, and the ethics of space exploration―how can this be? Because, as the authors explain in a very entertaining and wide-ranging way, quarantine, ironically enough, crosses borders of space and time to make a complex knot of stories. Timely, eye-opening, provocative—you will see the world differently after reading it.” —Kim Stanley Robinson, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning novelist, and author of Ministry for the Future

Cynthia Graber
Cynthia Graber

Cynthia Graber

Cynthia Graber is an award-winning writer and radio producer, whose work has been featured in magazines and radio shows including Wired, Fast Company, the New Yorker, Studio 360, The World, and many others. A co-host and co-founder (with Nicola Twilley) of the Gastropod podcast, Graber is based in Somerville, MA. 

Geoff Manaugh
Geoff Manaugh

Geoff Manaugh

Geoff Manaugh is the author of the New York Times bestseller A Burglar’s Guide to the City, as well as the architecture and technology website BLDGBLOG. He regularly writes for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, and many other publications.

Photo Credit: Gleb Kuznetsov

Nicola Twilley
Nicola Twilley

Nicola Twilley

Nicola Twilley is co-host of the award-winning podcast Gastropod, which looks at food through the lens of history and science, and an award-winning contributor to The New Yorker.

Photo Credit: Jenny GG


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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