Clair C. (Pat) Patterson, a Caltech geochemist who scientifically dated the age of the Earth and discovered lead contamination in modern humans, leading to the Clean Air Act of 1970, has died. He was 73.
Patterson, who had taught and done research at Caltech for four decades, died Tuesday at his home in Sea Ranch in Northern California.
Often referred to on campus as "the lead man" for his research determining that modern humans contain 1,000 times the lead of their prehistoric ancestors, Patterson argued that lead in combination with calcium cakes bones, clogs kidneys and diminishes children's intelligence.
Based on his research begun in 1960, environmentalists have obtained curbs on lead-based paints, ended the sealing of canned goods with lead solder and passed the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions from cars burning leaded gasoline. The EPA showed that the act cut lead emissions 96% in its first 20 years.