Dr. Mario Molina

Date: 11 Oct 1995
Owner: Heinz Awards
Source Type: Images


In 1995, Mario Molina (1943- ) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work concerning the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere. Born in Mexico City, Molina is the only Mexican to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences and one of only three Nobel laureates to hail from Mexico. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, Molina became a post-doctoral fellow at UC Irvine, where, out of sheer curiosity, he began to study the effects of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, on the atmosphere. At the time, CFCs were not considered to be dangerous chemicals, yet Molina showed that CFCs were immune to removal in the troposphere (close to the earth's surface) but could decompose in the stratosphere, releasing dangerous chlorine atoms. It is these chlorine atoms that catalyze the destruction of the ozone layer, reducing the amount of reflected UV radiation from the sun. Shocked by his findings, Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland (his mentor with whom he shared the Nobel award) began a multi-year effort to inform both scientists and policy makers of the environmental danger posed by CFCs.

In 1989, Molina joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he and his wife, Dr. Luisa Tan Molina, continue to do research in atmospheric chemistry. Mario is currently working on methods for reducing urban air pollution, using his hometown of Mexico City as a case study. Luisa Tan recently received the Women in Science Recognition award for her work on global warming. 
CITATION: Dr. Mario Molina. Heinz Award for Environment Recipient press release.