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2 Share Tyler Prize for Environmental Work

A leader in the worldwide battle to save tropical rain forests and a scientist who helped shaped modern research on natural hazards and water management have been named recipients of the 1987 Tyler Prize, a USC-administered award that is generally considered the most prestigious in environmental science.

Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard University and Gilbert F. White of the University of Colorado are to receive gold medallions and share a $150,000 cash award this evening in Los Angeles.

Schultes, 72, is a founder of the science of ethnobotany, the study of plant use in primitive cultures. During his 13 years in the Colombian Amazon in the 1940s and ‘50s, as well as in subsequent visits, he collected more than 25,000 plants, including 2,000 species used by natives for medicines or poisons.

Among the chemicals he discovered are curare, a poison that is now used as a muscle relaxant during surgery, and rotenone, an inexpensive biodegradable insecticide. The Colombian government has set aside 15 million acres of forest and named portions of it in his honor for conservation work there.

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White, 75, developed a new approach to geography that highlights human responses to natural hazards in the environment, emphasizing the long-range effects that environmental policy has on society. He pioneered research on flood management, hurricanes, desertification and waste treatment.

As president of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, White urged colleagues to investigate a hypothesis known as “nuclear winter,” which holds that smoke and dust created by nuclear warfare might block out sunlight and plunge the Earth into a prolonged and devastating cold period. His effort led to 1985 publication of “Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War,” a book that contained the first thorough discussion of the controversial theory.

The Tyler Prize was established in 1973 by Alice C. Tyler and her late husband, John C. Tyler, and is administered by USC.


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