Thomas Midgely — Lead Gas Additive and CFC Developer

Consider the case of Thomas Midgely, who introduced the idea of adding lead to gasoline to stop engines from knocking. He later helped develop commercial chloroflourocarbon (CFC) for use in refrigeration. For many decades lead and CFC were used in cars and refrigerators. Both turned out to be among the worst pollutants the world has ever seen. But is Midgely himself guilty for having caused more pollution than anyone else in the twentieth century? I do not know if he could have foreseen the consequences of his inventions. The same action and outcome can lead to quite different assessment of moral responsibility, depending on your judgments about the person’s foresight, control, and intentions.

The Gap
The Gap

Thomas Suddendorf

 

 


Thomas Midgely
Thomas Midgely

1889-1944

Midgely was an American mechanical engineer and chemist. He was a key figure in a team of chemists that developed the lead additive to gasoline as well as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). Midgley died three decades before the ozone-depleting effects of CFCs in the atmosphere became widely known. Another adverse effect of Midgley’s work was the release of large quantities of lead into the atmosphere as a result of the large-scale combustion of leaded gasoline all over the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.