Public and Environmental Health
Scientific progress and industrial growth have made many contributions to humanity’s quality of life, including, for example, the invention of processes to extract aluminum from the earth and gases from the air, as well as the creation of new substances that make possible modern electronic communications and life-saving pharmaceuticals. Industrialization and urbanization, however, have created problems that demand solutions, and scientists both past and present have alerted the public to these dangers and proposed appropriate solutions.
With the Industrial Revolution and the associated rapid growth of U.S. cities came a whole host of threats to public health. Beginning in the 19th century and still today scientists, including chemists, fight to protect the public from a variety of health concerns.
Foods and medicines have been for millennia man-made. Through ignorance or avarice on the part of producers, consumers can buy products that harm, even kill, them. Meet some of the crusaders in the fight to guarantee the safety and effectiveness of what we put in our mouths.
Food needs to be not only safe but also nutritious. The discovery of vitamins beginning in the early 20th century contributed significantly to our knowledge of proper nutrition. Chemistry played a vital role in that, and it also helps farmers understand their crops and nutritionists develop healthy diets.
Humans have done a lot to challenge their natural environment and resources. By the end of the 19th century, chemists and other scientists recognized this destructive trajectory in the United States. These scientists and their successors have fought hard to do something about this looming disaster.
Hear It Firsthand
The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@
Stories from the Field
Listen to career insights and stories of scientific adventures from women in chemistry.
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Historically Grounded Perspectives
|The Center for Contemporary History and Policy explores issues ranging from energy to medicine on CHF's blog, Periodic Tabloid.