In Memoriam: McCarty, Perry

In Memoriam: McCarty, Perry


Perry McCarty, a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, died on June 4, 2023, at the age of 91. McCarty was an environmental engineer who specialized in harnessing bacteria for water purification and renewable energy.

Excerpts from the full obituary published on the Stanford University website (July 3, 2023)
By Katie Brown and Andrew Myers:

“McCarty’s early, groundbreaking laboratory experiments led to the discovery of anaerobic bacteria that could break down environmental contaminants ranging from excess nitrogen to toxic chemicals, particularly chlorinated solvents, which were then heavily polluting groundwater reservoirs. This revolutionary treatment of water using bacteria that thrive without oxygen helped guide new strategies for cleaning up industrial contamination and minimizing groundwater pollution worldwide.

Among his noted remediation pursuits, McCarty and colleague David Hill were among the first to study anaerobic degradation of the now-banned pesticide DDT. The pair reported significant dechlorination of DDT, a key step toward its complete degradation. McCarty’s contributions were so foundational that fellow researchers named a previously unknown pollutant-eating anaerobe Dehalococcoides mccartyi.

Because of worldwide water shortages and the need for renewable energy, McCarty remained convinced of the enormous potential of anaerobic as opposed to aerobic wastewater treatment… Following his official retirement from Stanford, in 2009 McCarty began a productive five-year collaboration with Inha University in South Korea with a former graduate student, teaching and pursuing pilot studies of innovative bioreactor technology.

This research resulted in a new cost-efficient pilot treatment system that both reclaims domestic wastewater and produces energy from methane, thereby recovering resources from the treatment process. McCarty brought the technology back to Stanford in the form of the William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center, becoming the first plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The largest example of a McCarty-inspired anaerobic treatment plant is now being piloted in Redwood City.” 

Full obituary is available on the Stanford University website.

Submitted by Cara McCarty