Sherwood Rowland: Gone

Sherwood Roland, not being a frequent face on People or US magazines,  has not got hundreds of weeping fans dropping flowers and teddy bears on the sidewalk outside his home.  In a better world, his name would be on every tongue; he would be given a state funeral attended by tens of thousands who knew what they owed him.

F. Sherwood Rowland, whose discovery in 1974 of the danger that aerosols posed to the ozone layer was initially met with disdain but who was ultimately vindicated with the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, died on Saturday at his home in Corona del Mar, Calif. He was 84.

… Industry representatives at first disputed Dr. Rowland’s findings, and many skeptical colleagues in the field avoided him. But his findings, achieved in laboratory experiments, were supported 11 years later when British scientists discovered that the stratospheric ozone layer, which blocks harmful ultraviolet rays, had developed a hole over Antarctica.

The discovery led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a landmark international environmental treaty to stop the production of the aerosol compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC’s, and other ozone-depleting chemicals and to eliminate inventories of them.  NY Times

Joe Romm, at Climate Progress calls Rowland

… one of the true scientific heroes of our time — both for his research and for what he did with it:

He wasn’t content to publish his findings and move on to more experiments.  He took what he knew public, and insisted that people pay attention.

“Mario and I realized this was not just a scientific question, but a potentially grave environmental problem involving substantial depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer,” Rowland said later. “Entire biological systems, including humans, would be at danger from ultra-violet rays.”

They decided they had to advocate for a ban on consumer products that were earning billions annually. Industry representatives fought back: At one point Aerosol Age, a trade journal, speculated that Rowland was a member of the Soviet Union’s KGB, out to destroy capitalism. Even some fellow scientists grumbled that he was going overboard with a hypothesis.

 

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