When renowned environmental scientist and iconoclast Barry Commoner died on Sept. 30 at the age of 95, much was made of his status as the father of environmentalism. But the one-time presidential candidate also had deep ties in Queens, where he worked for over two decades.
Commoner was a member of the faculty at Queens College during two stints in his career, first teaching biology in the 1940s.
The biologist then focused his research on the environmental effects of the post-World War II industrial boom. The result? A new focus on the dangers of dioxins, the untapped use of solar energy and recycling. It culminated in his seminal 1971 work, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature and Technology.”
He ran for president on his own Citizens Party ticket in 1980, but garnered less than 1 percent of the vote.
Commoner returned to Queens College in 1981, bringing his Center for the Biology of Natural Systems with him. He then spent two decades continuing his research on the campus.
“For decades he took on most of the major issues facing the environment—including radioactive fallout, nuclear power, lead poisoning, and the global dispersion of pollutants—and offered brilliant analyses and workable solutions to these problems,” said Queens College President James Muyskens.
“Barry Commoner will be missed, but he has left behind an example that will continue to inspire.”