11 julio, 2024

Mario Molina: who was, biography, contributions, awards

Who was Mario Molina?

Mario Molina (1943-2020) was a Mexican scientist born in Mexico City. He was educated in his native country, and later in Germany and the United States. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.

Considered a universal Mexican, he has earned worldwide scientific recognition, collaborated in institutions and projects around the world, and was an advisor to executive cabinets on climate issues.

The contributions of Mario Molina have highlighted him as one of the greatest references in terms of environmental conservation.

He is mainly known for his work related to the depletion of the ozone layer by industrial gases known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These studies and positions earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.

Mario Molina was a member of multiple national academies of sciences; he was a professor and guest at distinguished universities worldwide; he had enormous support in projects and scientific investigations as well as a written work of great importance. He chaired and worked at a research center named after him.

Biography of Mario Molina

Birth and early years

Mario Molina was born in Mexico City, Mexico, on March 19, 1943. His father was Roberto Molina Pasquel, a diplomat and legal specialist; and his mother was Leonor Henríquez Verdugo.

From a very young age, Mario showed that he was attracted to science. When he was little he observed a protozoan through a toy microscope, which had a huge impact on him.

His interest in science was so great that he even turned a bathroom in his house into a small laboratory, where he spent long hours.


Mario Molina’s family had a tradition that its members went to study in Switzerland; When Mario turned eleven, it was time for him to study abroad.

Molina had already decided to dedicate himself to research in the area of ​​chemistry, an option he chose over dedicating himself to playing the violin professionally, an activity that he also liked very much.

He returned to Mexico after a season in Europe and in 1960 he studied chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, specifically in the Faculty of Chemistry. He finished his studies in 1965 and then traveled to Germany to continue his training, where he did postgraduate studies at the University of Freiburg.

After his training in Germany, Mario Molina returned to Mexico, where he worked as an assistant professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, his alma mater, and created the first graduate program in Chemical Engineering in all of Mexico.

After this, in 1968, he traveled to the United States and studied at the University of Berkeley, located in California. In this house of studies he obtained a doctorate in Physics and Chemistry, in 1972.

Rowland and the ozone layer

While in California he met Frank Sherwood Rowland, an American scientist and professor, who also won the Nobel Prize in 1995 as a result of his research on the ozone layer and its deterioration.

At that time, Molina had been recognized as a researcher focused especially on environmental issues.

He focused his efforts on increasing knowledge about the stratosphere, and was one of the first scientists to recognize how dangerous chlorofluorocarbons (present in refrigerants, aerosols, and other everyday items) can be to the ozone layer.

Molina and Rowland collaborated with each other on several occasions, especially in research related to the properties of the atom in the chemical field, specifically applied to radioactivity.

In addition, from 1974 these two scientists revealed that the ozone layer showed a thinner surface in the Antarctic area.

Both indicated that the use of products containing chlorofluorocarbons, used by humans since about 1940, was strongly affecting the ozone layer at the stratospheric level, deteriorating it and leaving it vulnerable.

At that time, the warnings made by Molina and Rowland were not taken into account, and were even considered excessive.

Defense of the theory

The approach made by Mario Molina together with Sherwood Rowland was very delicate, since they established that many products of daily use, produced by large and powerful industries, generated serious damage to the planet.

This meant that both Molina and Rowland had to hold their ground against a powerful industry that felt under attack. Throughout this process, Molina dedicated himself to advising private and public institutions on this issue, and in many cases he had to confront representatives of the government’s political and economic spheres.

Eventually his work paid off, as the companies that manufacture chlorofluorocarbon products admitted that this element was indeed harmful to the ozone layer.

Protocol in Montreal

In 1987, the fruits of all the work that Mario Molina had carried out in relation to the defense of his theory, exposed in conjunction with Frank Rowland, were observed.

That year the Protocol began to be negotiated in Montreal, through which the decrease in the consumption of substances that have been proven to be harmful to the ozone layer is promoted.

This protocol has been in force since 1989, the year in which it became official, and it is estimated that by 2050 the ozone layer may have recovered. The establishment of this protocol was the result of the work of various scientists, including Mario Molina.

Investigative work and recognitions

Molina continued with his environmental work in the field of chemical engineering. This scientist worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, attached to the California Institute of Technology, in the United States.

In 1989 he began working as a researcher and professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Planetary and Earth Sciences, attached to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also in the United States. In this context, being linked to this institute, Mario Molina obtained US nationality.

In 1994 Molina obtained the recognition of the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who offered him to join the presidential advisory committee, in which only 18 scientists who analyze scientific and technological aspects participate.

In 1995 Mario Molina received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research related to the ozone layer, in the field of atmospheric chemistry. This award was received together with his co-worker, Frank Rowland.

Last years

In June 2018, Molina spoke about the importance of complying with the Paris Agreement, whose objective is to regulate the emissions of gases that generate the greenhouse effect. Molina established that, if this agreement is not fulfilled, the environmental consequences could be very serious.

He died in 2020, victim of an acute myocardial infarction.

Contributions of Mario Molina to science

CFCs and their impact on the ozone layer

In 1974, Mario Molina worked together with the scientist FS Rowland and a whole research team, in some predictions about the thinning of the ozone layer, which they described as a consequence of the emission of gases emitted at industrial and domestic levels: chlorofluorocarbons.

These gases are usually emitted as a residue from industrial refrigeration processes and by aerosol products, and have a capacity to remain in the atmosphere for up to 100 years.

Molina’s work gave nations an important impetus to start working together to counteract air pollution.

properties of the atom

Before focusing on the effects of CFCs in the atmosphere, and during his years of study in the United States, Mario Molina was part of the department at the University of Berkeley, under the tutelage of one of the pioneers in the development of molecular structures.

Here he began his work, together with FS Rowland, who would be co-author of his most representative work, focused on understanding the chemical properties of the atom in radioactive processes.

This first approach to molecular components gave rise to Molina’s interest in inert chemical particles in the atmosphere.

functional treatises

Molina’s stance on air pollution after publishing his discoveries led companies to take steps to reduce their polluting emissions.

It is stated that the influence of Molina’s work led him to be present in the agreements that led to the establishment of the Montreal Protocol, in 1994, one of the international treaties that has shown the most effectiveness in the application of its guidelines.

Urban air quality

his first book, Air quality in Mexico’s megacity: a comprehensive approachpublished in 2005 together with Luisa Molina, includes in its pages the contributions of more than a hundred experts and science professionals, regarding their considerations on urban air quality.

The content of this book, whose research command was led by Mario Molina, is taken as an indispensable modern reference and the support of international scenarios and policies that must be considered worldwide.

Placing an example like Mexico City on the table, positions can be adopted that benefit less harmed scenarios.

Climate change

In the 2010s, Molina saw his second bibliographic work published in conjunction with other authors, this time addressing the causes, consequences, and phenomena of climate change, analyzing the factors that have led human beings to this point, and the possible scenarios to come. Short, medium and long term.

Published in 2016, this work reinforces the position that Molina maintained in the face of atmospheric and climatic deterioration of anthropogenic origin.

Mario Molina Center

This research center, located in Mexico City, is the physical representation of the legacy that Mario Molina has left on the world scientific scene.

Today, the Mario Molina Center is considered a bastion from which we work tirelessly to continue carrying out relevant research on climate change.

The clearest objective of this institution is to be an influential representative in local and national political decisions in favor of climate and environmental conservation. In the same way, it encourages international collaboration for this common good.

Scientific Publications

Mario Molina brought with him considerable scientific baggage, where his articles, now available for consultation, are of great importance.

His dedication to the issue of air pollution did not limit the scientific content and international collaborations that he was able to carry out.

Molina also investigated the efforts and results of international treaties established over the years, and about working together to generate predictions and scenarios on which it is possible to work in the future.

Public and political image

The birth of a public influence after the…

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