Frank Sherwood Rowland: A Champion for Environmental Protection

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Frank Sherwood Rowland (28 June 1927 – 10 March 2012) was an American chemist. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.

Life and Career

He was born on 28 June 1927, in Delaware, Ohio. Rowland graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1948. Then he went to the University of Chicago to study chemistry. He was included in the research group of Willard F. Libby, who invented the carbon-14 dating method.

He was influenced a lot by Professor Libby. He earned his M.S. in 1951 and his Ph.D. in 1952 under his guidance. ‘The epithermal reactions of recoil atoms’ was the title of his dissertation. Rowland joined the University of Princeton’s Chemistry Department in September 1952, a month after receiving his Ph.D. He also worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory during the summers of 1953, 1954, and 1955.

In the early 1970s, Rowland and his colleague Mario Molina began investigating the potential environmental impacts of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were widely used in refrigeration and aerosol spray cans at the time. Their research led them to discover that CFCs were contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere. This discovery ultimately led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, an international agreement to phase out the production and use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals.

In 1978, Rowland was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 1993, he became the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He tasted his first success when in 1976, the National Academy of Sciences concurred with Rowland’s findings. In 1978, CFC-based aerosols were banned in the US. Rowland kept measuring CFC levels in the atmosphere and collecting samples from different cities and latitudes. He strengthened his argument with it.

In 1982, working with Don Blake, he found that the concentration of methane, a greenhouse gas, was rising alarmingly in the atmosphere. The findings attracted wide attention and resulted in the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which put a blanket ban on the production of CFC and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Despite that, he kept working. He started novel research just a few months before he died. He started measuring chemicals in human breath with Blake. He wanted to see if it could provide a new way to diagnose diseases. He died on 10 March 2012, in Corona del Mar, California.

Award and Legacy

Rowland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, which he shared with Mario Molina and Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen for his work on atmospheric chemistry and the ozone layer.

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