Remembering Sheldon Krimsky, Leading Scholar of Environmental Ethics

Dr. Sheldon Krimsky, a Tufts University professor and researcher in science, ethics, and biotechnology, died April 23 in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 80.

Krimsky taught Humanities and Social Sciences in Tuft’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning for 47 years. During his career, he served as a member of the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health. Kaminsky was also chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility and was on the editorial boards of several scientific journals.

Krimsky researched the intersection of science, technology, and ethics. He published over 235 articles and 17 books including Biotechnics and Society, Science in the Private Interest, and Environmental Hazards and Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment.

Krimsky’s latest research delves into the public health impact of glyphosate-based herbicides and corruption in academic research. Krimsky uncovered how universities undermine their integrity by accepting grants from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

“One of the core values of science is ‘organized skepticism’. When claims are made, you have to start with skepticism until the evidence is so strong that your skepticism disappears. You don’t in science start by saying ‘Yes, I like this hypothesis and it must be true,” Krimsky told GMWatch.

Since his passing, Krimsky’s family, friends, colleagues, and students have shared their memories on a memorial website.

One of Krimsky’s students writes, “It was one of the best classes I ever took in college. And if I hadn’t taken it, I likely would not have dedicated my career to environmental issues. His brilliant and unique insights on the history of science—especially GMOs – also had a profound impact on me. When I saw him a few years [ago], I was reminded of his decency, humbleness and activist spirit.”

According to Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg, Krimsky was important in shaping her career. “Dr. Krimsky was extraordinary, and he pushed his students to be better thinkers and doers. I’m so honored that he was my professor.”

In an announcement to the Tufts community, James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said Krimsky was “fiercely loyal, kind, and supportive to family and friends, he was thoroughly devoted to teaching and to his students.”

In lieu of flowers, Krimsky’s family asks that community members donate to the newly-established Sheldon Krimsky Fund for Environmental Ethics and Values.

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