Previous innovator
« prev
Next innovator
next »

Ellen Kovner Silbergeld: The Genius of Eating Paint

[ photo: Ellen Kovner Silbergeld ]

The Genius of Eating Paint

A postdoctoral fellow at the time, Ellen Kovner Silbergeld '67 wanted to find out why a kid in his or her right mind would eat paint, so she picked a piece off the windowsill and ate it. She found out - it's sweet. Eating paint is usually not a good idea, but in this one instance, it was brilliant.

Named a MacArthur Fellow in 1993, Silbergeld was the first to study the neurological problems caused by lead, and among the first to advocate for lead-free gasoline and interior house paint. Currently on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she has held senior positions at the Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Maryland Medical School, has served on countless federal advisory boards, and has been fired from a few because of her unwavering stance on environmental protection. Recently, for example, the Bush White House fired her from the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Board, but Silbergeld says that's one termination she wears like a badge of honor.


VQ Spring 2004
Photo credit: Howard Korn