Hermione Cockburn tells the story of the man who in the 1920s added lead to petrol and a decade later put CFCs into fridges.

Both were great advances in their day but ultimately came with great environmental costs as well, and he eventually died in another of his own inventions.

The American Thomas Midgley became a prominent and honoured scientist because of these two discoveries and many more, but the legacy of lead pollution from car exhausts and CFC damage to the ozone layer have overshadowed his work.

A stark reminder that we cannot foresee all the consequences of scientific and technological advance.


Broadcast Details

  • First broadcast 20070110 (Radio 4)

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