Photo of George Levitt

George Levitt

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Agriculture

For their independent contribution to the discovery and commercialization of environmentally friendly herbicides to help ensure an abundant food supply for a growing world population.

George Levitt once told an interviewer that if any of us have a purpose in life, that purpose should be to make the world a better place. Levitt certainly cleared that bar of success.

Levitt, a retired agricultural research analyst for DuPont, discovered a family of herbicides that are less toxic to the environment than common table salt. The herbicides, sulfonylureas, kills weeds by disrupting plant enzymes but are harmless to humans and animals. Moreover, Levitt’s herbicides were so effective they allowed farmers to use smaller amounts. His discovery in 1975 would go on to produce hundreds of millions in annual revenue for DuPont, which markets the herbicide under the trade name Glean.

“I sincerely feel that the world is a better place because of my work through sulfonylureas,’’ Levitt told an interviewer for a Michigan State University Alumni Association story in 2006. Levitt earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University in 1957.

A native of Newburgh, N.Y., and a veteran of World War II, Levitt earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. After retiring from DuPont in 1986, Levitt served on the board of the Ronald McDonald House in Wilmington, Del.

By Robert Warren