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History of Mosquito Control at Rutgers

The John B. Smith Legacy
New Jersey is the only state that mandates its state land-grant university to research and recommend solutions for mosquito control. This is the result of the vision of John B. Smith. Smith, then a lawyer, was sitting in court one day when he realized that he was more interested in watching the flies on the courthouse wall than the case in which he was involved. That's when he decided to give up his law practice and follow his passion. When Rutgers formed a Department of Entomology in 1899, Smith was hired as the State Entomologist.

Smith was a dynamic academic. He published many volumes on insect pests, but mosquitoes remained his primary interest. Responding to complaints about biting mosquitoes in New Brunswick, Smith realized that the offenders were not produced nearby, but were from the salt marshes, which were miles away. He recognized that these mosquitoes were flying long distances from their larval habitat and therefore posed a statewide problem.

Smith went to the legislature in Trenton to propose a statewide coordinated effort for mosquito control. He even proposed that, with his plan in place, New Jersey would be able to develop a tourism industry at the New Jersey shore. The legislature was incredulous, and, the story goes, openly laughed at his proposal. But Smith went ahead with a small project in the Meadowlands, and demonstrated that mosquitoes invading Jersey City could be controlled by managing the salt marshes. After his success in Jersey City, his fame grew and his services were increasingly in demand.

Eventually, the state funded his mosquito control projects, and Smith drew up laws that would organize mosquito control on a county basis. His proposed law mandated that mosquito control be based on science, with oversight from the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). The director would annually review the plans of mosquito control agencies in the state. In addition, NJAES would conduct research on mosquito biology and control, train county biologists, and publish an annual list of pesticide recommendations. The Smith laws were adopted in 1912 and remain in effect with some revisions to this day.


The following timeline highlights the people and organizations that are responsible for New Jersey's continuing prominence in this field.