Mario Molina

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Mario Molina
Mario Molina 1c389 8387.jpg
Molina in 2011
Born
Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez

(1943-03-19)March 19, 1943
Mexico City, Mexico
DiedOctober 7, 2020(2020-10-07) (aged 77)
Mexico City, Mexico
Education
Spouse(s)
  • Luisa Tan
    (m. 1973, div. 2005)
  • Guadalupe Alvarez
    (m. 2006)
Awards
Scientific career
FieldsChemistry
Institutions
ThesisVibrational Populations Through Chemical Laser Studies: Theoretical and Experimental Extensions of the Equal-gain Technique (1972)
Doctoral advisorGeorge C. Pimentel
Doctoral studentsRenyi Zhang
WebsiteOfficial website (in Spanish)
External audio
audio icon "Whatever Happened to the Ozone Hole?: An environmental success story", Distillations Podcast 230, Science History Institute, April 17, 2018

Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez (19 March 1943 – 7 October 2020),[7] known as Mario Molina, was a Mexican chemist. He played a pivotal role in the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, and was a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in discovering the threat to the Earth's ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases. He was the first Mexican-born scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the third Mexican born person to receive the Nobel award.[8][9][10]

In his career, Molina held research and teaching positions at University of California, Irvine, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, San Diego, and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Molina was also Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment in Mexico City. Molina was a climate policy advisor to the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.[11]

On 7 October 2020, the National Autonomous University of Mexico announced that Molina had died of a heart attack.[12][13]

Early life[edit]

helo the
Molina at the 2011 Nobel Laurate Globalsymposium

Molina was born in Mexico City to Roberto Molina Pasquel [de], a lawyer and judge who went on to serve as ambassador to Ethiopia, Australia and the Philippines,[14] and Leonor Henríquez. As a child he converted a bathroom into his own little laboratory, using toy microscopes and chemistry sets. He looked up to his aunt Esther Molina, who was a chemist, and who helped him with his experiments.[15] Before deciding to become a research chemist, Mario Molina had considered the idea pursuing a musical career, in particular, becoming a violinist.[16]

After completing his basic studies in Mexico City and attending boarding school at the Institut auf dem Rosenberg in Switzerland,[14][17] he earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1965. In 1967 he earned his postgraduate degree in polymerization kinetics at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, West Germany, and in 1972 a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, working with George C. Pimentel.[5][6]

Career[edit]

Between 1974 and 2004, Molina variously held research and teaching posts at University of California, Irvine, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he held a joint appointment in the Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Chemistry.[5] On July 1, 2004, Molina joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, San Diego, and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.[18] In addition he established a non-profit organization, which opened the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment (Spanish: Centro Mario Molina para Estudios Estratégicos sobre Energía y Medio Ambiente) in Mexico City in 2005. Molina served as its director.[19]

Molina served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 2000 to 2005.[20] He also served on the board of directors of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2004–2014),[21] and as a member of the MacArthur Foundation's Institutional Policy Committee and its Committee on Global Security and Sustainability.[22]

Molina was nominated to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as of July 24, 2000.[23] He served as a co-chair of the Vatican workshop and co-author of the report Well Under 2 Degrees Celsius: Fast Action Policies to Protect People and the Planet from Extreme Climate Change (2017) with Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Durwood Zaelke. The report proposed 12 scalable and practical solutions which are part of a three-lever cooling strategy to mitigate climate change.[24][25]

Molina was named by U.S. President Barack Obama to form a transition team on environmental issues in 2008.[26] Under President Obama, he was a member of the United States President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.[27]

Molina sat on the board of directors for Xyleco.[28]

He contributed to the content of the papal encyclical Laudato Si'.[29][30][31][32]

In 2020, Mario Molina contributed to research regarding the importance of wearing face masks amid the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. The research article titled "Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19" was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Journal in collaboration with Renyi Zhang, Yixin Li, Annie L. Zhang and Yuan Wang.[33]

Discovery of harmful effects of CFCs[edit]

In 1974, as a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Irvine, Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland co-authored a paper in the journal Nature highlighting the threat of CFCs to the ozone layer in the stratosphere.[34] At the time, CFCs were widely used as chemical propellants and refrigerants. Molina and Rowland followed up the short Nature paper with a 150-page report for the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which they made available at the September 1974 meeting of the American Chemical Society in Atlantic City. This report and an ACS-organized press conference, in which they called for a complete ban on further releases of CFCs into the atmosphere, brought national attention.[35]

Rowland and Molina's findings were disputed by commercial manufacturers and chemical industry groups, and a public consensus on the need for action only began to emerge in 1976 with the publication of a review of the science by the National Academy of Sciences. Rowland and Molina's work was further supported by evidence of the long-term decrease in stratospheric ozone over Antarctica, published by Joseph C. Farman and his co-authors in Nature in 1985. Ongoing work led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol (an agreement to cut CFC production and use) by 56 countries in 1987, and to further steps towards the worldwide elimination of CFCs from aerosol cans and refrigerators. It is for this work that Molina later shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland.[36] The citation specifically recognized him and his co-awardees for "their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone."[37]

Molina joined the lab of Professor F. Sherwood Rowland in 1973 as a postdoctoral fellow. Here, Molina continued Rowland's pioneering research into "hot atom" chemistry, which is the study of chemical properties of atoms with excess translational energy owing to radioactive processes.[15][38]

This study soon led to research into chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), apparently harmless gases that were used in refrigerants, aerosol sprays, and the making of plastic foams.[39] CFCs were being released by human activity and were known to be accumulating in the atmosphere. The basic scientific question Molina asked was "What is the consequence of society releasing something to the environment that wasn’t there before?"[38]

Rowland and Molina had investigated compounds similar to CFCs before. Together they developed the CFC ozone depletion theory, by combining basic scientific knowledge about the chemistry of ozone, CFCs and atmospheric conditions with computer modelling. First Molina tried to figure out how CFCs could be decomposed. At lower levels of the atmosphere, they were inert. Molina realized that if CFCs released into the atmosphere do not decay by other processes, they will continually rise to higher altitudes. Higher in the atmosphere, different conditions apply. The highest levels of the stratosphere are exposed to the sun's ultraviolet light. A thin layer of ozone floating high in the stratosphere protects lower levels of the atmosphere from that type of radiation.[39]

Molina theorized that photons from ultraviolet light, known to break down oxygen molecules, could also break down CFCs, releasing a number of products including chlorine atoms into the stratosphere. Chlorine atoms (Cl) are radicals: they have an unpaired electron and are very reactive. Chlorine atoms react easily with ozone molecules (O3), removing one oxygen atom to leave O2 and chlorine monoxide (ClO).[39][40]

Cl· + O
3
→ ClO· + O
2

ClO is also a radical, which reacts with ozone to release two O2 molecules and a Cl atom. The radical Cl atom is not consumed in these reactions, so it remains in the system.[39][40]

ClO· + O· → Cl· + O
2

Molina and Rowland predicted that chlorine atoms, produced by this decomposition of CFCs, would act as an ongoing catalyst for the destruction of ozone. When they calculated the amounts involved they realized that CFCs could start a seriously damaging chain reaction to the ozone layer in the stratosphere.[36][15][38]

Rowland and Molina published their findings in Nature on June 28, 1974, and also made an effort to announce their findings outside of the scientific community, informing policy makers and the news media of their work. As a result of their work, laws were established to protect the ozone layer by regulating the use of CFCs.[15][38]

Honors[edit]

Mario Molina (left) with his countryman Luis E. Miramontes, co-inventor of the first oral contraceptive, ca. 1995

Molina received numerous awards and honors,[5][6] including sharing the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland for their discovery of the role of CFCs in ozone depletion.[1]

Molina was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1993.[41] He was elected to the United States Institute of Medicine in 1996,[42] and The National College of Mexico in 2003.[43] In 2007, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[44] He was also a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences.[5] Molina was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and co-chaired the 2014 AAAS Climate Science Panel, What We Know: The reality, risks and response to climate change.[45]

Molina won the 1987 Esselen Award of the Northeast section of the American Chemical Society, the 1988 Newcomb Cleveland Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the 1989 NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Advancement and the 1989 United Nations Environmental Programme Global 500 Award. In 1990, The Pew Charitable Trusts Scholars Program in Conservation and the Environment honored him as one of ten environmental scientists and awarded him a $150,000 grant.[5][46][47] In 1996, Molina received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[48] He received the 1998 Willard Gibbs Award from the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society[49] and the 1998 American Chemical Society Prize for Creative Advances in Environment Technology and Science.[50] In 2003, Molina received the 9th Annual Heinz Award in the Environment.[51]

Asteroid 9680 Molina is named in his honor.[52]

On August 8, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama announced Molina as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,[53] saying in the press release:

"Mario Molina is a visionary chemist and environmental scientist. Born in Mexico, Dr. Molina came to [The United States] to pursue his graduate degree. He later earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer. Dr. Molina is a professor at the University of California, San Diego; Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment; and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology."[4]

Molina was one of twenty-two Nobel Laureates who signed the third Humanist Manifesto in 2003.[54]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Molina received more than thirty honorary degrees.[5]

  • Yale University (1997)[55]
  • Tufts University (2003)[56]
  • Duke University (2009)[57]
  • Harvard University (2012)[58]
  • Mexican Federal Universities: National of Mexico (1996), Metropolitana (2004), Chapingo (2007), National Polytechnic (2009)
  • Mexican State Universities: Hidalgo (2002),[59] State of Mexico (2006),[60] Michoacan (2009),[61] Guadalajara (2010),[62] San Luis Potosí (2011)[63]
  • U.S. Universities: Miami (2001), Florida International (2002), Southern Florida (2005), Claremont Graduate (announced 2013)
  • U.S. Colleges: Connecticut (1998), Trinity (2001), Washington (2011), Whittier (2012),[64] Williams (2015)
  • Canadian Universities: Calgary (1997), Waterloo (2002), British Columbia (2011)
  • European Universities: East Anglia (1996), Alfonso X (2009), Complutense of Madrid (2012), Free of Brussels (2010),

Personal life[edit]

Molina married fellow chemist Luisa Y. Tan in July 1973. They had met each other when Molina was pursuing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. They moved to Irvine, California, in the fall of that year.[65] The couple divorced in 2005.[66] Luisa Tan Molina is now the lead scientist of the Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment in La Jolla, California.[67] Their son, Felipe Jose Molina, was born in 1977.[14][68] He graduated from Brown University and Harvard Medical School and now works as an internist in Boston. He is affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is an instructor in Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.[69] Molina married his second wife, Guadalupe Álvarez, in February 2006.[14]

Molina died on October 7, 2020, aged 77, reportedly due to a heart attack.[13][66]

Works[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "Volvo Environment Prize". Archived from the original on November 9, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. August 8, 2013. Archived from the original on December 26, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Center for Oral History. "Mario J. Molina". Science History Institute. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Caruso, David J.; Roberts, Jody A. (May 7, 2013). Mario J. Molina, Transcript of an Interview Conducted by David J. Caruso and Jody A. Roberts at The Mario Molina Center, Mexico City, Mexico, on 6 and 7 May 2013 (PDF). Philadelphia, PA: Chemical Heritage Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  7. ^ "Mario Molina, Mexico chemistry Nobel winner, dies at 77". ABC News (USA). Associated Press. October 7, 2020. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  8. ^ "Mario Molina, ganador del Premio Nobel 1995, muere a causa de un infarto". El Universal (in Spanish). October 7, 2020. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  9. ^ García Hernández, Arturo (October 12, 1995). "Ojalá que mi premio estimule la investigación en México". La Jornada (in Spanish). Archived from the original on September 16, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2009. Mario Molina, primer mexicano que obtiene el premio Nobel de Química...
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  11. ^ Governments Await Obama’s Move on Carbon to Gauge U.S. Climate Efforts Archived October 8, 2020, at the Wayback Machine May 26, 20001455 NYT
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  13. ^ a b "Fallece Mario Molina, Premio Nobel de Química 1995". El Financiero (in Spanish). Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
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  26. ^ Brown, Susan (August 9, 2013). "Presidential Medal of Freedom to be Awarded to Two UC San Diego Professors". UC San Diego News Center. Archived from the original on October 24, 2018. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  27. ^ "PCAST Members". Office of Science and Technology Policy. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 25, 2018 – via National Archives.
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  29. ^ The Pontifical Academy of Sciences. "The Importance of the Encyclical Laudato si' in the Context of the Current Scientific Findings" (PDF). Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  30. ^ Léna, Pierre (October 17, 2020). "A short text about Mario Molina". Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  31. ^ Vera, Rodrigo (October 8, 2020). "Mario Molina supo llevar sus creencias religiosas al ámbito científico". Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  32. ^ "Murió Mario Molina, quien asesoró al Papa Francisco sobre medio ambiente". October 7, 2020. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  33. ^ Zhang, Renyi; Li, Yixin; Zhang, Annie L.; Wang, Yuan; Molina, Mario J. (June 30, 2020). "Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117 (26): 14857–14863. doi:10.1073/pnas.2009637117. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 32527856.
  34. ^ Mario Molina and FS Rowland (June 28, 1974). "Stratospheric Sink for Chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine Atom-Catalysed Destruction of Ozone". Nature. 249 (5460): 810–2. Bibcode:1974Natur.249..810M. doi:10.1038/249810a0. S2CID 32914300.
  35. ^ "This Week's Citation Classic: Rowland F S & Molina M J. Chiorofluoromethanes in the environment. Rev. Geophvs. Space Phys. 13: 1-35. 1975. Department of Chemistry. University of California. Irvine. CA" (PDF). Current Contents. 49: 12. December 7, 1987. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 12, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
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  40. ^ a b Holleman, Arnold Frederick; Aylett, Bernhard J.; Brewer, William; Eagleson, Mary; Wiberg, Egon (2001). Inorganic chemistry (1st English ed.). Academic Press. p. 462.
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  64. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". www.whittier.edu. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  65. ^ "Molina, Mario (1943- )". World of Earth Science. Encyclopedia.com. 2003. Archived from the original on October 24, 2018. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  66. ^ a b Schwartz, John (October 13, 2020). "Mario Molina, 77, Dies; Sounded an Alarm on the Ozone Layer". New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  67. ^ "Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment". GuideStar. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  68. ^ "Dr. Mario Molina". The Ozone Hole.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  69. ^ "Felipe Molina". Swearer Center, Brown University. 2016. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.

External links[edit]