Long before Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, the University of California and the California Legislature recognized the negative impact that pesticides and other toxic chemicals might have on our environment. Until the mid-1950s, University research on such subjects was carried out within individual biology departments at Los Angeles, Riverside, Berkeley, and Davis. As the variety of pesticide uses grew, however, it became evident that their effects were interrelated and that the traditional academic approach often resulted in fragmentation rather than unity in our knowledge and understanding of them.

In 1957, the Legislature appropriated funds to establish a small pesticide residue research laboratory at Davis. By 1962, it had become an organized research unit known as the Agricultural Toxicology Laboratory. In 1968, this organization became the Department of Environmental Toxicology, responsible for a full range of teaching, research, and service functions.

In 1974, the department established the undergraduate major in Environmental Toxicology, the first of its kind in the country or abroad. Since then, the program has been a model for undergraduate toxicology majors and courses at other universities.

Research and teaching programs in the department are closely related, reflecting the close interdisciplinary cooperation required by our approach to the study of environmental toxicology. Thus, a blend of chemical and biological disciplines is brought to bear on problems in this science. Some of our strengths are analytical and environmental chemistry, metabolism, biochemical and cellular mechanisms of action, and mammalian and environmental toxicology of natural and man-made poisons, industrial pollutants, and pesticides. This approach is both practical and scientifically rewarding, as evidenced by the many research accomplishments of department personnel and the demand for our graduates for positions of responsibility in industry, government, and universities throughout the world.