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Thomas Midgley Jr. (May 18, 1889 – November 2, 1944) was an American mechanical and chemical engineer. He played a major role in developing leaded gasoline (tetraethyl lead) and some of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), better known in the United States by the brand name Freon; both products were later banned from common use due to their harmful impact on human health and the environment. He was granted more than 100 patents over the course of his career.
Thomas Midgley Jr.
|(1889-05-18)May 18, 1889
|November 2, 1944(1944-11-02) (aged 55)
Worthington, Ohio, U.S.
Midgley contracted polio in 1940 and was left disabled; in 1944, he was found strangled to death by a device he devised to allow him to get out of bed unassisted. It was reported to the public that he had been accidentally killed by his own invention, but his death was privately declared a suicide.
His legacy is one of inventing the two chemicals that did the greatest environmental damage. Environmental historian J. R. McNeill stated that he "had more adverse impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth's history." Author Bill Bryson remarked that he possessed "an instinct for the regrettable that was almost uncanny." Science writer Fred Pearce described him as a "one-man environmental disaster".
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