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Paul Hermann Muller
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Scientist
    He did not invent DDT; pharmacologist Othmar Zeidler first synthesized it in 1874.
    DDT was lethal to a wide range of insects, so spraying it to control malaria-transmitting mosquitos would also kill off beneficial insects, such as pollinators.
    DDT is suspected of being carcinogenic.
    DDT accumulates in body fats, and is resistant to metabolism.
    DDT causes eggshell thinning in several bird species, which resulted in a significant drop in populations for bald eagles, brown pelicans, peregrine falcons, and ospreys.
    Indiscriminate overuse of DDT, especially for agricultural purposes, resulted in the evolution of DDT-resistant strains of mosquitos.
    Prior to his discovery of the properties of DDT, the only insecticides that were both cheap and effective were arsenic compounds that were as lethal to people and mammals as they were to insects.
    DDT was used during WWII to prevent malaria outbreaks in the Pacific Theater and to combat typhus in liberated concentration camps and POW barracks.
    The Nobel Prize Committee noted, ‘Without any doubt, the material has already preserved the life and health of hundreds of thousands.’
    He was one of the few winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine not to be either a doctor or a medical researcher.
    DDT was used in campaigns to eliminate malaria in the US and Europe.
    Although DDT was banned internationally for agricultural use (2004), it remains on the World Health Organization’s list of insecticides approved for use to combat malaria.

Credit: C. Fishel


 
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