The Environmental Health Movement Loses Ethics Leader: Sheldon Krimsky

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Photo credit: Tufts University.

By Stephen Lester.

Dr. Sheldon (“Shelly”) Krimsky, internationally esteemed scholar, and pioneer in environmental ethics, passed away unexpectedly in Cambridge, MA, April 23rd, 2022. He was 80. His probing work investigated the connections between science, ethics, and biotechnology, and the pernicious role chemicals play in the environment. A truly adored professor at Tufts University for 47 years, he held the distinguished position of Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. He also taught ethics at the Tufts University School of Medicine and was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, The New School, and New York University. Dr. Krimsky received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Brooklyn College, CUNY, and Purdue University, respectively, and a master’s and doctorate in philosophy at Boston University.

In his prolific and inspirational academic career, Dr. Krimsky authored 17 books including Understating DNA AncestryGenetic AlchemyBiotechnics and Society, Hormonal Chaos, and Science in the Private Interest. He also co-authored Environmental Hazards and Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment and published more than 235 articles on the regulation and social and ethical aspects of science and technology, bringing attention to issues such as DNA privacy, GMOs, and other conflicts of interest in science. Dr. Krimsky served on the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of NIH and chaired the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of AAAS and had been a consultant to the Office of Technology Assessment. He was on the Board of Directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics and served on the editorial board of seven noted journals.

Born in Brooklyn, he embraced his New York roots, eventually living part-time in Greenwich Village. He was often seen in Washington Square Park, getting coffee and a bagel at one of his favorite cafés, or at the Green Market where he would often pick up a treat, usually apple pie. He also played guitar and harmonica, sometimes jamming with friends, and writing and improvising songs. Fiercely loyal, kind, and supportive to family and friends, he was thoroughly devoted to teaching and to his students. Survivors include the love of his life, his wife Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky, playwright, visual artist and author, and two adored children Alyssa Krimsky Clossey and Eliot Krimsky, along with their spouses Will Clossey and Lisa Benger, and three cherished grandchildren, Benjamin Perry Clossey, Andrew Krimsky Clossey, and Siona Rose Krimsky. To learn more about his life’s work, please visit the many pages within this website.

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