F. Sherwood Rowland, a founding faculty member and chemistry professor at UC Irvine who won the Nobel Prize for showing that chlorofluorocarbons could destroy the Earth's ozone layer, passed away this weekend in Corona del Mar.
Rowland died Saturday at his CDM home from complications from Parkinson's Disease. He was 84. The news of Rowland's death was announced to the university's staff on Sunday.
"It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tell you that Sherry Rowland died...,'" UCI physical sciences dean Kenneth C. Janda wrote in an email. "We have lost our finest friend and mentor. He saved the world from a major catastrophe: never wavering in his commitment to science, truth and humanity, and did so with integrity and grace.''
As a founding faculty member at UC Irvine, Rowland was a pillar of the community, said Chancellor Michael Drake.
“His Nobel Prize-winning research is noteworthy not only for its scientific impact and clarity, but also for the direct effect it has on living things,” said Drake. “His contributions as an architect and citizen of our campus, as teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend, have been instrumental in making us who we are. He was a wonderful man. We would not be who we are, without him.”
Nearly 40 years ago, Rowland and post-doctoral student Mario Molina discovered that a single chlorine atom byproduct from aerosol hair sprays, deodorants and other popular consumer products could chew up 100,000 ozone atoms in the stratosphere. They began advocating a ban on consumer products that were generating billions of dollars annually, which was unpopular with the industry.
"Aerosol Age, a trade journal, speculated that Rowland was a member of the Soviet Union's KGB, out to destroy capitalism,'' noted an obituary released by UC Irvine. "Even some fellow scientists grumbled that he was going overboard with a hypothesis.''
Rowland explained his activism during a 1997 White House climate change roundtable.
"Is it enough for a scientist simply to publish a paper? Isn't it a 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, so that action actually takes place? If not us, who? If not now, when?'' He shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry with two others.
Rowland's ashes will be scattered at sea in a private ceremony within sight of his home in CDM. He is survived by Joan, his wife of nearly 60 years, two children, Ingrid and Jeffrey, and two grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, Joan Rowland asks that a donation be made to the F. Sherwood Rowland Chair and Graduate Fellowship Fund at the UC Irvine Department of Chemistry.
-City News Service contributed to this report.