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— Sherwood Rowland, died 10 March. © Steve Zylius / University Communications
The sad news has reached us that atmospheric chemist Sherwood Rowland died on Saturday 10 March, aged 84, from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. Best known for his discovery, along with post-doc Mario Molina, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroy ozone nearly 40 years ago, Rowland campaigned for a ban on the use of the widely used and lucrative CFCs.
In 1987, some years after the original discovery of the the action of CFCs, and following evidence of their work above the Antarctic to cause a hole in the ozone layer, CFCs were finally banned from sale. ‘His publicising the adverse effects of release of CFCs in the 1970s did not endear him to industry, but eventually led to his Nobel Prize, which he shared with Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen,’ said RSC President David Phillips in a statement today. ‘In the early stages of his research on CFCs, he and his students used to travel the world taking air samples – I have some photographs of him doing just that in the grounds of the Vatican in Rome in 1982 where he and I were taking part in a Discussion Meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.’
Rowland did not rest after his work on CFCs and as well as research he campaigned against other harmful air pollutants. In 2009 Rowland joined with other Nobel Prize winners to urge US President Barack Obama to increase funding for energy research and development. ‘The most important molecule involved in global warming is carbon dioxide,’ Rowland told Chemistry World at the time. ‘What we are looking for is energy solutions that are advanced and that can last for centuries or more, and chemists will need to be working on these things for an extended period of time.’
Frank Sherwood Rowland, known as Sherry, was born on June 28, 1927 in Delaware, Ohio. After gaining his PhD at the University of Chicago with physical chemist Willard Libby, Rowland originally worked as a nuclear chemist and was a founding faculty member of the University of California, Irvine campus, which was to be his home from 1964. ‘He was a major force in atmospheric chemistry, and, along with his family, he will be greatly missed by all of his colleagues too,’ Phillips said.
Rowland is survived by his wife Joan, daughter Ingrid, son Jeffrey and two grandchildren.