March 12, 2012
Nobel Laureate and NAS/IOM Member "Sherry" Rowland Has Died at Age 84
On March 10, F. Sherwood Rowland passed away at his home near the
Rowland showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), in everyday use in aerosol sprays and refrigerants during the 1960s and '70s, could destroy the Earth's ozone layer. He and his colleagues argued that continued use of CFCs could ultimately leave all life on the planet in danger from exposure to incoming ultraviolet rays unshielded by atmospheric ozone. In the public debate that ensued, Rowland was a dominant public figure and frequent witness before Congress. His work led to bans and curbs on the use of CFCs in the late 1970s and to the Montreal Protocol that prohibited their use worldwide in 1987.
Rowland was a founding professor of the
"During the CFC research, we talked on the phone nearly every day," said Cicerone. "I considered Sherry to be my best friend, and over time I learned that many people considered him to be their best friend, too. In the midst of the debates over CFCs, he never exaggerated the dangers, always cited the science, and treated other people with dignity and respect. And through all of this, he continued his own research."
Rowland was elected to the NAS in 1978 and served as foreign secretary from 1994-2002. The
E. William Colglazier, science adviser to the
In recent years, his experience with CFCs and ozone led Rowland to investigate the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that might trigger changes in the Earth's climate. Speaking to a 1997 White House roundtable on climate change, Rowland asked: "Is it enough for a scientist simply to publish a paper? Isn't it the responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn't it your responsibility to actually do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place? …If not us, who? If not now, when?"