A scientist who linked environmental factors with cancer and two who discovered natural alternatives to chemical pesticides will share the 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
The award, which includes a $200,000 cash prize and gold medals, will go to Sir Richard Doll of the University of Oxford; Hans Herren of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology; and Yoel Margalith of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The men will give public lectures April 3, at 1:30 p.m., in the Davidson Conference Center of USC, which administers the prize. They will be honored by the international environmental community April 4, at 7 p.m., during a banquet and ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Sir Richard Doll, 90, is the emeritus Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford.
Doll has been a pioneer in discovering links between common pollutants and major ailments such as lung cancer and leukemia.
In the late 1940s, many British doctors blamed rising lung cancer rates on atmospheric pollution, specifically coal smoke.
But Doll, working as part of a research team, discovered a common denominator among the cancer patients that others had not – tobacco smoking.
He and a colleague named Bradford Hill studied 709 lung cancer patients in 20 London hospitals and found smoking was the one thing all of the patients had in common.
It was the first time there was a scientifically-proven link between tobacco smoke and lung cancer, heart and respiratory diseases. The findings, published in 1950, have had an immeasurable impact on how smoking is regarded today.
Doll, a former smoker, expanded into other areas while continuing his research of tobacco and illness. He linked asbestos and lung cancer and, in a separate study, connected the inhalation of nickel among miners with cancer of the lung and paranasal sinuses.
Doll also discovered that children exposed to X-rays while in their mothers’ wombs were at risk of developing leukemia. As a direct result of his epidemiological work, many chronic diseases have become easier to avoid.
Herren, 55, is chief executive and director general of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.
A native of Switzerland, Herren moved to Nigeria in 1979 as the sole researcher for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
At the time, Africa was faced with an ecological crisis. Cassava crops, which grow in more than 30 sub-Saharan countries and provide food for millions of people, were being ravaged by mealybugs.
Rather than turn to expensive and environmentally harmful pesticides, Herren called on Mother Nature for the solution.
Over a seven-year period, predatory wasps that feed exclusively on mealybugs were introduced over vast swaths of Africa. They fed on their prey, then died off after their sole food source disappeared.
Herren’s creative solution saved millions of people from potential famine and prevented the large-scale use of chemicals. He was awarded the World Food Prize in 1995.
Yoel Margalith, 70, is a professor in the life sciences department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and director of its Center for Biological Control.
The Yugoslavia-born entomologist is credited with discovering a natural microbial agent that is lethal to all species of mosquitoes and black flies. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti, produces a toxin that disintegrates the intestine of mosquito larvae, killing them within a half hour.
The bacterium has little negative impact on the environment, is cheaper than its chemical alternatives and kills only the larvae of those two insects – leaving all other organisms unharmed.
Dubbed Israel’s “Mr. Mosquito” by the media, Margalith’s work has controlled mosquito- and black fly-borne diseases such as onchocerciasis, or river blindness, and malaria in Africa and China. Bti also has been used in the United States, the Middle East and Europe.
One of Bti’s major advantages is that mosquitoes seem unable to develop a resistance to it. That was not the case with chemical pesticides like DDT, which were used widely throughout the 1950s and 1960s until the insects acquired resistance.
The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement honors environmental, energy and health advancements that benefit humanity.
It was established by the late John and Alice Tyler in 1973 and is awarded annually to those who have made world-class environmental accomplishments.
Contact Usha Sutliff at (213) 740-0252.