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Mario Molina
Mario Molina 1c389 8387.jpg
Molina in 2011
Born (1943-03-19)March 19, 1943
Died October 7, 2020(2020-10-07) (aged 77)
Mexico City, Mexico
Education National Autonomous University (BS)
University of Freiburg (MS)
University of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Spouse(s) Luisa Tan (1973)
Guadalupe Alvarez (2006)
Awards Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1983)
Newcomb Cleveland Prize (1987)
NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1989)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1995)
UN Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize (1999)
Heinz Award in the Environment (2003)
Volvo Environment Prize (2004)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013)
Scientific career
Fields Chemistry
Institutions University of California, San Diego
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
University of California, Irvine
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Thesis Vibrational Populations Through Chemical Laser Studies: Theoretical and Experimental Extensions of the Equal-gain Technique (1972)
Doctoral advisor George C. Pimentel
Doctoral students Renyi Zhang

Mario J. Molina (March 19, 1943 – October 7, 2020) was a Mexican chemist who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995. This was because, in the 1970s, he was one of the scientists who discovered that there was a hole in the ozone layer in the Earth's atmosphere. He is the first Mexican to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Molina was one of 20 Nobel Laureates who signed the "Stockholm memorandum" at the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability in Stockholm, Sweden on 18 May 2011. Molina led a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science which released a stark report on global warming March 2014.

Molina was born in Mexico City. He studied at National Autonomous University of Mexico, University of Freiburg and at the University of California, Berkeley. Molina died in Mexico City from a heart attack on October 7, 2020 at the age of 77.


Molina wa the son of Roberto Molina Pasquel, a lawyer and diplomat who went on to serve as chief Ambassador to Ethiopia, Australia and the Philippines in 1923, and Leonor Henríquez de Molina.

As a child he converted a bathroom into his own little laboratory, using toy microscopes and chemistry sets. He also looked up to his aunt Esther Molina, who was a chemist, and who helped him with his experiments.

After completing his basic studies in Mexico City and Switzerland he earned a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1965, a postgraduate degree from the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, West Germany, in 1967 and a doctoral degree in Chemistry from University of California, Berkeley in 1972.

In 1974, as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Irvine, he and Rowland co-authored a paper in the journal Nature highlighting the threat of CFCs to the ozone layer in the stratosphere. At the time, CFCs were widely used as chemical propellants and refrigerants.

A 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. This led to moves towards the worldwide elimination of CFCs from aerosol cans and refrigerators, and it is for this work that Molina later shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Between 1974 and 2004 he variously held research and teaching posts at UC 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. 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.

Molina was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and The National College of Mexico.

He received more than 18 honorary degrees and Asteroid 9680 Molina is named in his honor. In 2003 he was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.

Molina divorced Luisa Tan Molina and married his second wife, Guadalupe Álvarez, in February 2006. His only son works as a physician in Boston. Molina had been assigned by U.S. President Barack Obama to form part of the transition team on environmental issues.

His discovery

Future ozone layer concentrations
Animated version of the NASA projection from 1974 to 2060 of the impact of CFCs on the Ozone layer if they hadn't been banned


Molina finished his Ph. D in 1972 and married fellow chemist Luisa Y. Tan in July 1973. In the fall of 1973, they moved to Irvine, California, where Molina joined the lab of Professor F. Sherwood Rowland as a postdoctoral fellow.

Here, Molina continued Rowland's pioneering research into "hot atom" chemistry. This study soon led to research into chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which had been accumulating in the atmosphere.

Molina tried to figure out how CFCs might be destroyed in the lower atmosphere, but nothing seemed to work. He and Rowland knew that if CFCs released into the atmosphere do not decay by other processes, they continually rise to higher altitudes until they are destroyed by solar radiation. They discovered that chlorine atoms, produced by the decomposition of CFCs, catalytically destroy ozone.

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. Attesting to the continuing importance of their discovery, to this day there are still laws that protect the ozone layer by regulating the use of CFCs.


Mario Molina received several awards and honors, sharing the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Paul J. Crutzen for their discovery of the role of CFCs in ozone depletion. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science. He also won the 1987 Esselen Award of the American Chemical Society, the 1988 Newcomb-Cleveland 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 the ten environmental scientists and awarded him a 150,000 dollar grant.

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