During World War II, 1939, Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller of J. R. Geigy AG in Basel discovered the high efficiency of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) as a contact poison against several athropods. Throughout the war DDT was used with great effect among both military and civilian populations to control mosquitoes spreading malaria and lice transmitting typhus, resulting in dramatic reductions in the incidence of both diseases.
In 1948 Müller received the Nobel Prize in Biology and Medicine for this discovery, which is thought to have saved the lives of over 21,000,000 people worldwide. After the war, DDT was made available for use as an agricultural insecticide, and its production and use skyrocketed with unexpected disastrous effects upon the environment.
As a result of the 1962 book, Silent Spring, by American marine biologist and nature writer, Rachel Carson, the disastrous consequences of DDT began to be understood by politicians and the public, and DDT was eventually banned in the United States in 1972.