Mario J. Molina (1943–2020) was one of the leading scientists in the world, dedicated to atmospheric chemistry. He co-authored with Frank Sherwood Rowland the 1974 Nature article predicting the depletion of the ozone layer as a direct consequence of the emissions of certain industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The “CFC-ozone depletion theory” led to their earning the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Paul J. Crutzen. Professor Molina’s research and publications on the subject also influenced the United Nations Montreal Protocol, a landmark international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer.
Professor Molina earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, a postgraduate degree from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He held a joint appointment at the University of California, San Diego, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He was Institute Professor at MIT between 1989 and 2004 and has held research and teaching positions at the Universidad Autónoma de México, the University of California, Irvine, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology.
Professor Molina, a former member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in the United States, served on President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. For his contribution to science, Professor Molina received numerous awards, including more than 30 honorary degrees, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the UNEP-Sasakawa Environment Prize, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award. In Mexico, he presided over the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies on Energy and Environment, which conducts research and promotes public policies. The Center focuses on strategic studies of energy and the environment, particularly in the field of climate change and air quality.