1.6 Meet heels and heros

Aristotle taught that we intuitively recognize the villain in a story. He also taught that we develop virtue by imitating the actions of the hero. The scholarly community consists of individuals who have helped to advance research and individuals who have undermined it. We make our group more resilient and self-aware when we publicly honor the courageous and diligent, and when we shame miscreants. Read, first, about someone whose mistakes we do not want to repeat.


Find a researcher in the list to your left and read about their misdeed(s). When you are finished, if you wish, share with us--perhaps via our Facebook group--the names of other researchers who have been publicly examined and found wanting. We are only interested in hearing of individuals who have had the chance to respond to allegations, have enjoyed the due process of law and, after a fair hearing, were officially reprimanded.


Now find--and share with us--a researcher in your field who has done exemplary work on technical and ethical grounds. Heros abound. If you are a botanist, you may, for example, want to nominate Arthur Galston, a graduate student at the University of Illinois in 1943 who studied the chemical processes regulating plant growth. Galston figured out how to hasten ripening in soybeans for Midwest farmers.

Galston, writes Linda Lambeck, "was successful in finding a compound that produced flowering two weeks earlier. But he discovered if he used too high a concentration, it also made the leaves fall off as he noted in his thesis before heading off to serve in World War II."

"He returned to find that someone else had read his work and had the idea patented. His compound and others were the basis for Agent Orange. By the time the Vietnam War arrived, it was ready for use. Millions of gallons were sprayed over Vietnam from 1961 to 1970, exposing the Ho Chi Minh trail and other enemy passageways and causing a tremendous amount of ecological damage."

"Valuable teak trees and mangrove swamps along the estuaries of the delta south of Saigon were stripped and remain so to this day. Once aware of the ecological damage the chemical was causing, Galston and other scientists went to Vietnam. They began to wonder about the effects on people and animals. When they returned, a committee was formed to study the impact of the spraying."

"A November 1967 study Galston led was unable to come to firm conclusions about Agent Orange but advised its continued use might 'be harmful' and have unforeseen consequences. The spraying was stopped in 1970 after Galston and others successfully appealed to the Nixon administration" (Linda Conner Lambeck, Agent Orange Discoverer Tries to Make Amends, Connecticut Post, Dec. 10, 2005.

Author: Gary Comstock
Maintained By: Gary Comstock
Last Updated: 2009-08-11