The Role of Chemistry in History

The Role of Chemistry in History header image 2


April 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments ·

Introduction / DDT molecule / Malaria / World War II

Environmental Problems / Insect Resistance / Begin Using Again?  /  References



DDT was first synthesized by Othmar Zeidler from Strasbourg, Austria in 1874. He was a chemistry student testing various compounds to get material for his doctorate. He recorded the synthesis of DDT in 6 lines in a journal and then forgot about it. It was synthesized again in 1938 by a Swiss chemist named Paul Muller of Basle. He discovered the unique properties that DDT had and realized the importance of such an insecticide. In 1939, Switzerland was having problems importing chemicals due to the beginning of the war and the German invasion of Poland. The Colorado potato beetle struck their potato crop and DDT was first put to the test. It completely destroyed the beetle and save the crop. Then in 1942 the Geigy Company, a Swiss Dye House that owned the patent, offered it to the American Army. After a year long intense investigation and study of the compound by the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine, DDT was given to the Army to protect against insects found abroad that carried disease.

Tags: DDT