International Advisory Board
The Encyclopedia of Earth
Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland is the Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry and Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. He came to the University of California Irvine in 1964 as the first chair of the Department of Chemistry. He became the Donald Bren Professor of Chemistry in 1989, and was named to the Research Professor position in 1994. He also is currently Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, an office to which he was first elected in 1994 for a four-year term, and re-elected in 1998 for a second term.
Dr. Rowland previously held faculty positions at Princeton University (1952-1956) and the University of Kansas (1956-1964). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago. In 1995, Rowland shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen “for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone.”
Dr. Rowland is a specialist in atmospheric chemistry and radiochemistry. He and colleague Mario Molina were the first scientists to warn that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) released into the atmosphere were depleting the earth’s critical ozone layer. Research on CFCs and stratospheric ozone eventually led in the 1970s to legislation in the United States, Canada and Scandinavia regulating the manufacture and use of chlorofluorocarbons as aerosol propellants.
In 1987, the Montreal Protocol of the United Nations Environment Programme became the first international agreement for controlling and ameliorating environmental damage to the global atmosphere by calling for reductions in CFC manufacture and release. The terms of the Montreal Protocol were strengthened in 1992 to attain a complete phase out of further CFC production by January 1, 1996. Measurements of organochlorine molecules, including CFCs, in the lower atmosphere confirm that the global response to the terms of this protocol have been excellent.
Rowland also has been investigating the impacts on the atmosphere of methane gas and of other hydrocarbons. These studies have shown that the atmospheric concentrations of methane increased steadily at about 1% per year from 1978 to 1988, and at a slower pace in the past decade. The global methane concentration has more than doubled in the past two centuries. Methane absorbs terrestrial infrared radiation, and increases in its concentration contribute to the “greenhouse effect,” the gradual warming of the earth’s surface.
The Rowland research group is now investigating the hydrocarbon and halocarbon composition of the atmosphere, both from aircraft in remote locations and on the surface in heavily polluted cities. Studies of the local atmosphere in Mexico City and Santiago, Chile have shown substantial concentrations of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) through leakage from heating and cooking facilities. The aircraft experiments conducted as part of the NASA Global Tropospheric Experiment have shown extensive smog pollution over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from the burning of agricultural wastes and forests. Rowland has co-authored more than 350 scientific publications in the areas of atmospheric chemistry, radiochemistry and chemical kinetics.
Rowland is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. As Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, he helped create the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) in 1995, and co-chaired it from 1995-2000. The IAP is an organization of the Academies of Sciences from more than 80 countries working together to solve trans-national and global problems in scientific policy.
In 1983, Rowland and Molina received both the Tyler World Prize in Ecology and Energy (shared with Harold S. Johnston) and the Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology of the American Chemical Society. In 1987, Rowland received the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health, and in 1988, he was made a member of the Global 500, the Honour Role of the United Nations Environment Program. In 1989, he received the Japan Prize in Environmental Science and Technology and in 1994 the Albert Einstein Prize of the World Cultural Council.
During 1991-1993, he served successive one-year terms as President-Elect, President, and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Rowland has also been awarded the 1979 Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest by the American Physical Society, the 1993 Peter Debye Medal in Physical Chemistry by the American Chemical Society and the 1994 Roger Revelle Medal of the American Geophysical Union. He has been awarded the University of Chicago Alumni Medal and the University of California Irvine Medal.
Rowland has received honorary degrees from sixteen institutions, including the University of Chicago, Ohio Wesleyan University, Duke University, Princeton University, Haverford College, Whittier College, Clark University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Carleton College, Occidental College, Simon Fraser University (Canada), University of Calgary (Canada), East Anglia University (UK), University of Urbino (Italy), Kanagawa University (Japan) and LaTrobe University (Australia). In 2000, Rowland was elected to the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame for the combination of success in both academics and inter-collegiate athletics while an undergraduate student at Ohio Wesleyan University and as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, together with subsequent scientific achievements.