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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Agent Orange Researcher Passes

Air Date: Week of

Arthur Galston. (Courtesy of Yale University)

When Arthur Galston discovered a chemical compound that could make soybeans flower early, he didn’t suspect that the chemical would be used by the U.S. Army to create Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant employed in the Vietnam War. Galston lobbied then Presidents Johnson and Nixon to halt the use of the dangerous substance, and spoke out on bioethics and the risks of scientific research. Living on Earth honors Arthur Galston who died recently at age 88.


Scientists have been at the forefront in drawing world attention to global warming despite attacks from naysayers who believe climate change is just a bunch of bunk. Of course scientists must determine for themselves their role in society and their responsibility for their discoveries. And this week we remember one scientist who labored mightily to undo his work. Biologist Arthur Galston conducted early research that led to the development of Agent Orange, the powerful herbicide the US used to lay waste to much of Vietnam. When Professor Galston realized how the defoliant was being used he led the effort to stop it - President Richard Nixon banned Agent Orange five years before the war ended. In 2003 Arthur Galston told Living on Earth that students need to be taught the risks of conducting scientific research:

Arthur Galston. (Courtesy of Yale University)

GALSTON: I tell them that they can never feel immune from the danger of producing a result that will be misused, and that it's their social responsibility to enter the fray, even at the cost of having to divert themselves from their further research activity. You've got to write articles, you've got to speak, you've got to join with others, you've got to testify in Congress. You've got to do what you can to try to regulate the findings and the use of scientific information in such a way that it will benefit society rather than act as a harmful input.

GELLERMAN: Plant biologist and bioethicist Arthur Galston died June 15th. He was 88.



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