The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone

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Thomas Geisbert Character Analysis

An intern at USAMRIID who specializes in using the Institute’s super-powerful electron microscope, Geisbert takes the initial pictures that identify the Reston virus as Ebola. Like Peter Jahrling, he is potentially exposed to the virus when the two men sniff a vial full of it (unaware that the agent within it is Ebola).

Thomas Geisbert Quotes in The Hot Zone

The The Hot Zone quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas Geisbert or refer to Thomas Geisbert. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of The Hot Zone published in 1999.
Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

He saw virus particles shaped like snakes, in negative images. They were white cobras tangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa. They were the face of Nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked. This life form thing was breathtakingly beautiful. As he stared at it, he found himself being pulled out of the human world into a world where moral boundaries blur and finally dissolve completely. He was lost in wonder and admiration, even though he knew that he was the prey.

Related Characters: Richard Preston (speaker), Thomas Geisbert
Page Number: 149-150
Explanation and Analysis:

As the truth about the Reston Monkey House becomes clear, Thomas Geisbert, a scientist at the Institute, looks at the virus in question. Having not previously realized that he was dealing with Ebola, he has not taken the necessary precautions. Now, though, realizing his mistake, he feels the same horrified fascination that many other researchers experience within the book. Although he knows that a single particle of this virus could kill him, he remains entranced by its efficiency and perfection (this time on a cellular level).

To describe Geisbert's experience, Preston takes on an almost mythical tone. Once again, he describes the Ebola virus as a predator (and humans as "prey"), even comparing individual viral particles to the hair of Medusa, a Greek monster known for turning men to stone with her eyes. Preston wants readers to understand that these particles represent nature in its purest form: gorgeous, deadly, and ruthless. Although we can observe it, we will never control it, nor will we ever be able to escape the scope of its power. 

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Thomas Geisbert Character Timeline in The Hot Zone

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Geisbert appears in The Hot Zone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 3: Exposure
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
Preston introduces readers to a trainee at USAMRIID called Thomas Geisbert, who operates the Institute’s electron microscope, which is used to take images of small organisms... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
Having heard about the sick monkeys in Reston, Geisbert decides to take photographs of the samples in order to try to identify simian-fever-virus particles.... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
...hand over the flask in order to waft its scent and smell it. He encourages Geisbert to do the same, explaining that pseudonomonas “smells like Welch’s grape juice.” This culture, however,... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Geisbert places some of the fluid from the culture into a centrifuge in order to separate... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5: Medusa
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
On November 27th at 7 AM, Tom Geisbert returns to the Institute to check on the monkey cells, which have formed a small... (full context)
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
As the cell comes into focus, Geisbert knows that something is wrong—the cell has been utterly destroyed, and is filled with viruses... (full context)
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Geisbert takes pictures of the scene before him, and goes to the darkroom to develop them.... (full context)
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
...move out into the bloodstream. The bricks make the cell bulge and eventually burst. Thomas Geisbert realizes that the granules he saw under the light microscope were actually inclusion bodies, and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: The First Angel
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
Tom Geisbert prints out the photos and heads to Peter Jahrling’s office with them. On the way,... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Globalization Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
...well, and the two worry that Dan Dalgard might be infected. Peters requests that Tom Geisbert take electron microscope pictures of monkey liver in order to ascertain whether there is actually... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
After speaking to C. J. Peters, Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert discuss the fact that they both may have inhaled Marburg virus. They count backwards and... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
Jahrling asserts that he and Geisbert most likely did not contract the virus, although he decides to test their blood to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7: The Second Angel
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
On November 28th, Tom Geisbert gets up at 4 AM and drives to Fort Detrick. He slices pieces of monkey... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5: A Bad Day
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
...been spending all his time in his spacesuit running tests on monkey samples, while Tom Geisbert has been working equally hard at his electron microscope. Occasionally the two check in with... (full context)
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris  Theme Icon
...at last, realizing that there is no glow, he is relieved. The same goes for Geisbert’s blood. At 11 PM Jahrling enters the decontamination shower, intending to go home, but instead... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6: Decon
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Nineteen days after sniffing a tube of Ebola, Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert decide that they are definitely not infected. They are reassured but puzzled by the fact... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7: The Most Dangerous Strain
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
...monkey house to the Army. The monkey house, meanwhile, stays vacant to this day. Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling—who is now the principal scientist at USAMRIID—name the new virus Ebola Reston.... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2: Camp
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
As a side note, Preston explains that Tom Geisbert once did an experiment on Marburg to see how long it could survive in water—it... (full context)