F. Sherwood Rowland

Banquet speech

F. Sherwood Rowland’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1995

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My friends and colleagues, Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina, and I are most grateful for the honors bestowed upon us today, for the Nobel Prize is the ultimate in recognition in the scientific world. It is immensely satisfying to us that our efforts to understand the chemistry of ozone in the atmosphere have been judged worthy of this honor.

The atmosphere and its manifold changes have held fascination for men and women ever since human beings have trod this Earth. Its study played an integral role in the evolution of natural philosophy from which all of our present sciences have sprung. The scientific and technological developments of the past several decades, not available to our predecessors in past millennia, have provided the theories and tools which have now permitted us to develop a significant understanding of several atmospheric processes which affect the concentration of ozone in our stratosphere. This ozone is vital to us and to all other species living on the sunlit Earth because it both establishes the temperature structure of the atmosphere and simultaneously protects us against damage from the most energetic solar ultraviolet radiation. We now know that ozone is subject to transformation by long-lived chemicals, both natural and man-made, released at the Earth’s surface, and substantial reductions in its concentration could have a strongly deleterious effect upon mankind and upon the rest of the biosphere.

Our gratitude extends well beyond our own personal satisfaction because these honors also confer high scientific approval upon the field of atmospheric chemistry and upon environmental science in general. The current understanding of the atmosphere has progressed over the past two decades through the skillful and dedicated work of many hundreds of our colleagues in the field of atmospheric chemistry. Their work has collectively evolved to the point that the nations of the world have accepted through the Montreal Protocol of the United Nations the need for careful monitoring and, in some instances, control of gaseous emissions to the atmosphere.

Once again, speaking on behalf of Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina, and myself, we thank you all for the wonderful honors given to us today.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1995, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1996

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1995

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