Growing up, Edward F. Knipling tended to his parents’ farm, doctoring baby cows infected with screwworms and picking cotton in fields destroyed by boll weevils.
During World War II, “Knip” directed the USDA lab in Florida, brainstorming ways to keep disease-causing insects like lice and mosquitoes away from troops.
There, he spearheaded the development of DDT and other insecticides that likely saved thousands who would have died from malaria and typhus.
After the war, Knipling turned his attention to a familiar pest: the screwworm, a larva that kills mammals by hatching in wounds and burrowing under the skin.
Knipling conceived the idea of sterilizing a large population of male screwworm flies and releasing them into the wild to mate.
The female flies, who only mate once, would then lay infertile eggs – thereby eradicating the species.
The idea worked. By the early 1980s, the elusive screwworm had claimed its last victims in the United States.