Mario J. Molina
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995
Born: 19 March 1943, Mexico City, Mexico
Died: 7 October 2020, Mexico City, Mexico
Affiliation at the time of the award: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: “for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone”
Prize share: 1/3
Mario Molina was born in Mexico City and wanted to be a chemist from childhood. He attended a boarding school in Switzerland from age 11, since it was considered important for a chemist to understand German. He later studied to become a chemical engineer in Mexico before continuing his work in Europe and in Berkeley, California in the United States. His time at Berkeley was stimulating, and it was there he discovered how freons damage the ozone layer. Molina currently works in San Diego, California in the United States and in Mexico. He is married to Guadalupe Alvarez and has a son, Felipe, with former wife Luisa Molina.
The atmosphere around our earth contains small amounts of ozone; molecules made from three oxygen atoms. Ozone has played a major role in absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which would otherwise negatively impact life on earth. In 1974, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland demonstrated that CFC gases, freons, have a damaging effect on ozone in the atmosphere. Freons had many uses, including propellants in spray cans and refrigerants in refrigerators. By limiting the use of freons, the depletion of the ozone layer has been slowed.
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