"The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else."
Barry Commoner (1917– )
Columbia College 1937
A renowned cellular biologist, Barry Commoner helped initiate the modern environmental movement. In the early 1950s, Commoner—then a professor at Washington University in St. Louis—became concerned about radioactive fallout spreading from nuclear-weapons tests in the Nevada desert. Finding that much of the data from the tests remained classified, he saw the need for citizen access to information about the results' implications for the environment. This led to the formation of the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information (CNI). Disputing the official government position that nuclear testing posed little health risk to humans, a CNI analysis of children's baby teeth demonstrated that such testing caused radioactive buildup in humans. This determination was one of the factors that led to the 1963 nuclear test-ban treaty, which phased out atmospheric testing. As Commoner's concerns broadened, he studied issues such as pollution and ozone-layer depletion and advocated the use of solar and other types of renewable energy. In 1970, a Time magazine cover story dubbed him "the Paul Revere of Ecology" for his early leadership in the field.