Mario Molina pictureMario José Molina, a specialist in atmospheric chemistry and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, died on October 7, 2020 of a heart attack. Born on March 19, 1943 in Mexico City, he spent brief periods in Germany and Paris, earned a PhD in chemistry at Berkeley, then became a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) and since 2005 at the University of California, San Diego campus and at Scripps Institution. He shared his work between Mexico and the United States, where he had become a citizen. 

As early as 1974, he and Sherwood Rowland, who had directed his Phd at Berkeley, discovered and published the risks to the ozone layer from fluorocarbon gases (CFCs), released into the atmosphere by industrial refrigeration systems. This warning was only heard after the hole in Antarctica's ozone layer was discovered from space in 1985. This demonstration, which combines theory and observations, led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which was adopted by 87 States that committed themselves to banning the use of these compounds.  It also led to the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 to M. Molina, S. Rowland and Paul Crutzen, who later introduced the concept of Anthropocene to highlight the global evolution of the Earth under the effect of human action. 

Mario Molina was always mindful of his native country, Mexico, where he founded the Mario Molina Center in 2005 to promote climate science and education, which was a major concern for him. He was one of those who knew well the adventure of La main à la pâte and whose friendship encouraged us to found the Climate Education Office in 2018. He encouraged us to collaborate with his Mexican Center in the CLEAR project.

In 2013, he received the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama and was a member of the Presidential Advisory Group on Science and Technology.  He was a member of the United States Academy of Sciences and also of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, where I was able to work with him extensively on science education issues. Concerned about climate change and the major risks to humanity, he contributed to the content of the papal encyclical Laudato Si' (2015). 

Sadly, we are losing a friend of the OCE, a great scientist and humanist. 


Pierre Léna
October 17, 2020

Publication date
Natalie Nicetto