Professor Dr. Yoel Margalith
1933 - 2011
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend and colleague Professor Yoel Margalith on Saturday, the 2nd of April 2011.
With his passing we have lost not only a highly qualified scientist, but also a good friend who was always willing to provide a helping hand.
Prof. Yoel Margalith was born on February 9, 1933 in Cantavir, Vojvodina, in the former Yugoslavia. In 1948 he moved to Israel and completed his education at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva.
Yoel´s most significant scientific contribution was the discovery of the important biological control agent Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). This environmentally friendly microbial agent has been crucial in the fight against the nuisance and vector mosquitoes such as vectors of malaria, river blindness, and deadly arthropod-borne viruses. It also shaped Yoel´s later career as a world leader in the early development of biological mosquito control. Prof. Margalith´s discovery of Bti and his pioneering efforts around the world to implement environmentally sound, integrated nuisance and vector control technologies based on his bacterium have had a major impact on the health of millions of people. His findings have also had an enormously beneficial impact on the environment.
During the last 25 years the role of Bti in controlling mosquito and black fly-borne diseases has been increasingly recognized. Prof. Margalith´s microbial agent has been utilized extensively in our own personal activities as well as in our active participation in the World Health Organization´s (WHO) Working Group Panels. Bti has been used very effectively against the vectors of river blindness along the Volta River in eleven African countries. The eyesight of millions of people has been saved, and the repopulation of deserted fertile river valleys initiated (as highlighted also by National Geographic, August 1993 issue), all thanks to Bti. Additionally, malaria infections from pesticide-resistant mosquitoes have dropped by 90% along the Yangtze River in China, a province with a population of over twenty million people.
Bti is widely used in Europe, as recommended and practiced by the European and German Mosquito Control Associations (KABS). Specifically, KABS protects many millions of people, residents of over a hundred municipalities, along 300 km of the Rhine River, and over 6000 km2 of inundated flood plains, heavily infested by nuisance and vector mosquitoes of deadly arboviruses. Effective reduction of mosquito populations from five hundred bites per minute to nearly zero has improved overall public health, and enabled the tourist and domestic economy to flourish again along the Rhine River, in stark contrast to the situation before the Bti era nearly 30 years ago.
In addition to his discovery and research on Bti, Prof. Margalith devoted his career to introducing the concept of Integrated Biological Control (IBC) against mosquitoes in the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, and Africa. To this end he also established the Center for Biological Control in the Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University, Israel, which he directed until his last moments. Through his work developing a five-year multi-national program to eradicate mosquitoes along the Jordan Valley, Yoel used mosquito and fly control as leverage for peace between Israel, Palestine and Jordan as part of his mission to improve our world.
Internationally recognized as the leader in his field, he won numerous awards during his career, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Neuvo Leon in Mexico, honorary citizenship of Winnipeg, Canada, and Philipsburg, Germany. In recognition of his breakthrough discoveries and achievements, and his contribution to improved public health and a cleaner environment, Prof. Margalith was awarded the Tyler Prize in 2003. He was also made the first honorary member of the European Mosquito Control Association (EMCA), received the Citation Award from the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), the distinguished service award from ESOVE, and many more similarly prominent awards.
Nonetheless, despite his many awards and distinctions, Yoel was also a devoted teacher. He derived great pleasure from teaching, second only to his bio-control activities, teaching and supervising an extensive list of courses, Master´s, PhD and post-doctoral students. Yoel was also visiting Professor at the Harvard University in Boston, USA.
Prof. Margalith´s passing is a tremendous loss not only for his family and for us, his friends and colleagues, but also for the wider scientific community. His memory will stay with us always in our hearts and minds, as will his significant and lasting contribution to the field of mosquito control. Thanks to his dedication and hard work, the efforts of those involved in mosquito control and eradication have an excellent foundation on which to base their future research and control practices. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Prof. Margalith´s family at this sad time.
On behalf of the members of EMCA
PD Dr. habil. Norbert Becker
Executive Director of the European Mosquito Control Association (EMCA)
Scientific Director of the German Mosquito Control Association (KABS)
Prof. Dr. Peter Lüthy
President of EMCA