Mario Molina, the Mexican nobel in Chemistry who saved the ozone layer



Eduard Ribas i Admetlla.- He always understood that science should be at the service of society, that is why the Nobel Prize in Mexican Chemistry Mario Molina, who died on Wednesday at the age of 77, dedicated his life to raising awareness of the planet's great environmental challenges, such as the hole in the ozone layer or the climate crisis.

As a child, José Mario Molina-Pasquel and Henríquez, born in Mexico City on March 19, 1943, became fascinated to observe the microorganisms in a drop of water with a toy microscope, so he turned the bathroom of his house into an improvised laboratory.

Thus he began his career as a chemist that led him to be part of the select group of Mexicans awarded the Nobel Prize, together with the diplomat Alfonso García Robles, Nobel Peace Prize 1982, and the writer Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize in Literature 1990.


Molina and American scientist Frank Sherwood (1927-2012) received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 thanks to the study published in the journal Nature in 1974 in which the two predicted that the emission of chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) would cause a hole in the ozone layer.

The Mexican scientist discovered that CFCs, used in refrigerators and aerosols, decomposed into the stratosphere releasing a high concentration of chlorine atoms that would destroy the ozone layer by facilitating the filtration of ultraviolet rays to Earth.

This would lead to diseases and serious impacts on ecosystems, alerted Molina's study, graduated in Chemical Engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1965, a professor at the University of Freiburg in 1967 and a doctorate from the University of California Berkley in 1972.

Thanks to its discovery, an international consensus was reached for the adoption of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which banned the use of CFC gases by stabilizing ozone levels, which continue to recover today.

In this way, Molina became an authority on the environment and traveled the world doing pedagogy about the climate crisis, arguing with scientific arguments at climate change deniers.

The Mexican chemist used all the forums it had to demand a successful new international consensus, such as the Montreal Protocol, to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent a catastrophic 2-degree increase in the planet's temperature.


His recognition and prestige led him to the White House in 2011, where he served on President Barack Obama's Science and Technology Advisory Council (2009-2017) along with 21 other scientists.

In fact, it was Obama himself who awarded Molina the Presidential Medal of Freedom, considered the highest civil distinction in the United States, being the first Mexican to receive it.

A gesture repeated by the French representative Francois Hollande (2012-2017), who on a visit to Mexico in 2014 decorated Molina with the National Order of the Legion of Honour.

Teaching was one of the great passions of the Mexican, who practiced as a professor and researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (1967-1968), the University of California Irvine (1975-1979), the California Institute of Technology (1982-1989) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1989-2004).

Mario Molina received more than 30 'honoris causa' doctorates, as well as being a prominent member of the Pontifical Vatican Academy of Sciences, the National College of Mexico, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Mexican Academy of Engineering, among others.

In 2005 he founded a public policy research center named after him, the Mario Molina Center, located in Mexico City, where he conducted strategic studies on energy and the environment, with special attention to climate change and air quality.

Despite his advanced age, during the last few months he was very active in defending the use of the water cover to prevent COVID-19 contagions.