Environmental Defense Mourns Death of Founding Chairman

June 12, 2001
Environmental Defense mourns the death of its founding chairman, Dennis Puleston, who died Friday at his home in Brookhaven, Long Island, NY, at the age of 95.

“Through his books, lectures, paintings and his tireless dedication to conservation efforts, Dennis was an inspiration to all who knew him and worked with him,” said executive director Fred Krupp. “A few years ago he addressed the assembled Environmental Defense staff, now in the hundreds, and in his characteristically humble way thanked us all for what the group had grown to become. But it’s we who owed him our thanks; none of us would be here were it not for Dennis and his friends.”

Puleston was director of the technical information division at Brookhaven National Laboratory when he and a small group of concerned citizens brought a legal action in 1966 against DDT, the pesticide that had devastated the population of the osprey, Long Island’s majestic fish hawk. A year later Puleston and his colleagues incorporated the Environmental Defense Fund (later renamed Environmental Defense) and went on to win a nationwide ban on DDT in 1972.

After his retirement, Puleston remained an Honorary Trustee of Environmental Defense and embarked on a second career as a naturalist and lecturer, traveling on more than 180 voyages including many to Antarctica, which he visited 35 times. In 1995 he was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which honored him as “a scientist, humanist, teacher, and conservationist…whose ceaseless efforts to conserve our environment have ensured the survival of this invaluable heritage for our children and grandchildren.”