William Webster Allen was born in Viroqua, Wisconsin, on January 29, 1908. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Chemical Engineering, he was hired as a research chemist by the Dow Chemical Company. He subsequently served as sales manager for Dow’s Agricultural Chemicals Department and as president of the National Association of Agricultural Chemicals. His employment and research accomplishments sparked his interest in food production. After retiring, he worked for the United States Mission at the United Nations where he witnessed firsthand the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world.
In 1975 he established the Allen Foundation, Inc. with the goal of reaching more people with better nutritional information and thereby helping to alleviate malnutrition. He believed that most of the leading causes of deaths were attributable to what people ate. His concerns were echoed in the Surgeon General’s reports on Nutrition and Health which detailed how the American diet directly affected the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, arteriosclerosis, diabetes and some types of cancer. These disorders, a decade after the establishment of the Allen Foundation, still accounted for more than three-fourths of all deaths in the United States.
Mr. Allen died on November 12, 1987, at his home in La Jolla, California. In his eightieth year, he was teaching a course in Agribusiness at the United States International University (now combined with Alliant University to become Alliant International University).