Mary-Dell Chilton - Society for Science Skip to content

About Mary-Dell Chilton

A pioneer in plant biotechnology, Mary-Dell Chilton has had a revolutionary impact on plant science and global agriculture. After earning her doctorate in chemistry, Chilton established her own lab at Washington University in St. Louis. In the early 1980s, she led a research team that produced the first genetically modified plant. She later became the founding director of the first biotechnology lab at CIBA-Geigy Corporation, now Syngenta, where she developed the first insect-resistant corn. In recognition of her groundbreaking achievements, Chilton received the 2013 World Food Prize, the highest honor in her field. In 1956, Chilton competed in STS with a project involving the construction of an 8-inch telescope. For her work, Mary received the 2023 National Medal of Technology and Innovation.


Chilton receiving the USDA’s Hall of Heroes Plaque in 2015. Chilton’s other honors include the 2002 Benjamin Franklin Medal and induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Bob Nichols/USDA via Wikimedia Commons

A picture from Chilton’s STS project report showing her in the process of making a telescope.

Notable Alumni - Mary-Dell Chilton

Chilton and a fellow STS finalist on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in 1956.

Notable Alumni - Mary-Dell Chilton