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Paul Hermann Müller
Born: 12 January 1899, Olten, Switzerland
Died: 12 October 1965, Basel, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: Laboratorium der Farben-Fabriken J.R. Geigy A.G. (Laboratory of the J.R. Geigy Dye-Factory Co.), Basel, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods."
Prize share: 1/1
Several serious diseases are spread by insects. For example, malaria is spread by mosquitoes. Typhus fever is spread by lice in clothing, and epidemics have broken out when hygiene is neglected, particularly in connection with wars. In 1942 Paul Müller discovered that the substance DDT was effective in killing insects. With the aid of DDT, people could curb the spread of malaria and halt an epidemic of typhus. It would turn out, however, that DDT had serious after effects. It became concentrated in the food chain and injured other animals and people.
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