Mario Molina Biography and What did He do? Career and Contributions to Science


Who was Mario Molina and what did he do? Information about Mario Molina’s life, biography, works, honors and contributions to chemistry.

Mario Molina

Mario Molina was a Mexican-American chemist who made significant contributions to the field of atmospheric chemistry. He is best known for his discovery, along with Sherwood Rowland, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995. Molina was also a passionate advocate for environmental protection and played a key role in the creation of the United Nations Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to phase out the production and use of CFCs. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 77.

Early life

Mario Molina was born on March 19, 1943, in Mexico City, Mexico. He grew up in a family of scientists, and his father was a chemist who founded the Instituto de Química in Mexico City. Molina attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he studied chemical engineering, and later earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1972. During his graduate studies, Molina worked with renowned atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who would later become a close collaborator and friend.


After completing his Ph.D., Molina worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine, and then at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In 1974, he joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an assistant professor of chemical engineering. It was during his time at MIT that Molina began his groundbreaking research on the effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the ozone layer.


In 1974, Molina and his colleague Sherwood Rowland published a paper in the journal Nature proposing that CFCs could lead to the destruction of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Their research sparked international concern and led to the development of the United Nations Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to phase out the production and use of CFCs. Molina continued to work on environmental issues throughout his career, advocating for measures to address climate change and air pollution.

In addition to his research, Molina was also a highly respected educator and mentor. He served as a professor at MIT for over 20 years and later held positions at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Berkeley. Molina received numerous awards and honors for his scientific contributions, including the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1983. He passed away in 2020.

Discovery of Harmful Effects of CFCs

In the early 1970s, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland began investigating the potential impact of human-made compounds, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), on the Earth’s atmosphere. At the time, CFCs were widely used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosol sprays.

Molina and Rowland hypothesized that CFCs could be broken down by ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere, releasing chlorine atoms that could then react with ozone molecules, leading to the depletion of the ozone layer. This theory was met with skepticism at first, but their research was later confirmed through additional experiments and observations.

Their groundbreaking work raised global awareness of the impact of human activity on the environment and led to the development of the United Nations Montreal Protocol, which aimed to phase out the production and use of CFCs. The protocol has been widely considered a success, and the hole in the ozone layer has been shown to be slowly recovering over time.

Molina’s contributions to the discovery of the harmful effects of CFCs on the ozone layer were recognized with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, which he shared with Rowland.


Mario Molina received numerous honors throughout his career, including:

  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1995): awarded jointly with Sherwood Rowland for their work on the chemistry of the ozone layer and the role of CFCs in its depletion.
  • Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1983): awarded for his research on the environmental impacts of CFCs.
  • National Medal of Science (1999): awarded by President Bill Clinton for his contributions to atmospheric chemistry and environmental policy.
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013): awarded by President Barack Obama for his contributions to science and environmental advocacy.
  • American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology (1988): awarded for his research on the environmental impact of CFCs.
  • American Geophysical Union Roger Revelle Medal (2004): awarded for his leadership in atmospheric science and his contributions to environmental policy.

In addition to these honors, Molina was also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He received honorary doctorates from numerous universities around the world for his contributions to science and the environment.

Personal life

Mario Molina was married to Guadalupe Álvarez, and the couple had one son, Felipe Molina Álvarez. Molina was known for his passion for environmental advocacy and was deeply committed to addressing issues related to climate change and air pollution. He was an advocate for renewable energy and sustainable development and often spoke about the need for global cooperation to address environmental challenges.

Outside of his work, Molina enjoyed playing the piano and was an avid reader. He was also a fan of opera and classical music and was known for his love of the arts. Despite his many accomplishments, Molina was known for his humility and his willingness to mentor and collaborate with young scientists. He passed away on October 7, 2020, at the age of 77.

Mario Molina Quotes

Here are a few quotes from Mario Molina:

  1. “We’re changing the chemistry of the atmosphere. It’s never happened before on this scale. We’re in the middle of an unplanned, unintentional science experiment, and it’s a scary one.”
  2. “Science is a tool for understanding the world, not a policy prescription for action.”
  3. “It’s a matter of taking responsibility for what we do, and recognizing that we need to act now in order to avoid the worst consequences of our actions later on.”
  4. “I see science as a way of contributing to society, of making the world a better place.”
  5. “We have the technology, the knowledge, and the resources to solve many of the world’s problems. What we need is the will to act.”

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