Posted September 8, 1999
Ray F. Smith
Ray F. Smith, a distinguished entomologist whose work helped dramatically reduce crop insecticide use in the United States, died Aug. 23, at his home in Lafayette, Calif., of throat cancer. Smith, 80, was a professor emeritus of entomological science at Berkeley.
Smith has been called the father of integrated pest management, a concept that combines biological, cultural, ecological and chemical techniques to control insects and other pests in food production. This holistic approach reduced U.S. insecticide use on crops by 50 percent, according to the World Food Prize Foundation, which awarded Smith its prestigious international award in 1997.
Smith's "research and writings over a busy half-century profoundly affected agricultural and environmental practices around the world, resulting in dramatic reductions in the use of synthetic chemicals as pesticides," said the foundation.
Born in Los Angeles in 1919, Smith earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. at Berkeley. He then joined the faculty as an entomological sciences instructor in 1946. He rapidly received several promotions, becoming chairman of the department in 1959 and a full professor in 1960. He retired in 1982.
Besides the World Food Prize, Smith's honors and awards are numerous. They include the Founders Memorial and C. W. Woodworth awards of the Entomological Society of America, and his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981.
A paper by Smith and colleagues on the integrated pest management concept "is the single most important paper published on crop protection in this century," said the National Academy. "...This and other contributions by Smith turned the science of insect control away from primary dependence on insecticides to principal reliance on biological control, pest-resistant varieties and cultural practices."
Smith worked with key international agencies to carry the new pest strategy around the world. In 1974, he organized the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Project for Integrated Pest Management for Major Crops, and soon thereafter initiated projects on cotton, rice and food crops in Africa, the Near East and Asia. He also served on numerous other international boards and agencies.
"He was an exceedingly talented person and exceedingly hard-driving person. His statement was, 'You have to have drive,'" recalled William W. Allen, Smith's former graduate student, colleague and friend. Allen is former associate dean for research at the College of Natural Resources.
Smith is survived by his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth; daughter Kathrine Stark of Lafayette, Calif.; son Donald Smith of McKinleyville, Calif.; sister Betty Webley of Alaska; and seven grandchildren.
A private memorial service will be held by the family. Contributions may be made to the Hospice of Contra Costa, 2051 Harrison, Concord, Calif., 94520, or to the Johannes Joos Memorial Fund, c/o Professor Wayne Getz, Division of Insect Biology, 2011 Wellman Hall, Berkeley, Calif., 94720.