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Harvey Wiley, Chemist

Making America’s food supply safer was the life’s work of Dr. Harvey Wiley and he’s the subject of this Louisville Life Et Cetera.

Harvey Wiley was born in 1844 in Kent, Indiana (near Hanover), and attended Hanover College.

He graduated after a stint in the Union army during the Civil War. He would go on to obtain advanced degrees from Indiana University and Harvard.

Wiley became the chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture, pioneering tests to check food purity. He organized a group of volunteers called the Poison Squad, who tested the effects of chemicals and impure foods on themselves. Wiley’s work led to the Pure Food and Drugs Act and the formation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During his time in the federal government, Wiley became embroiled in a lawsuit with Coca-Cola over caffeine; the case was ultimately dismissed.

Wiley left the government in 1912 to take over the laboratories of Good Housekeeping Magazine, building their “Seal of Approval” into the gold standard of consumer guarantees.

Harvey Wiley died in 1930 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Tributes to this consumer advocate include a postage stamp issued on the 50th anniversary of the Pure Food and Drugs Act; Wiley’s alma mater Hanover College named a dormitory for the food safety pioneer.

Program 218
Louisville Zoo conservation, Rebecca Ruth Candy factory tour, plus the history of long-time Louisville florists Nanz & Kraft. We're joined on the set by guest Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian General Assembly Council (USA). (#218)