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F. Sherwood Rowland dies at 84; UC Irvine professor won Nobel Prize

F. Sherwood Rowland discovered that chlorofluorocarbons led to the depletion of stratospheric ozone. His work resulted in an international treaty banning CFCs in 1987. Rowland and two others shared the Nobel in chemistry in 1995.

March 12, 2012|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times

Manufacturers began to phase out chlorofluorocarbons in the late 1980s, prompted by the discovery of an ozone "hole" over Antarctica that formed each winter in response to weather conditions and the falling worldwide levels of ozone. The Montreal Protocol, a landmark international agreement to phase out CFC products, was signed by the United States and other nations in 1987.

The protocol was proof that nations could unite to address common environmental threats, Rowland contended. "People have worked together to solve the problem," he said.

Rowland considered the phase-out of CFCs his greatest achievement, Blake said. His receiving the Nobel Prize, alongside Molina and Paul J. Crutzen of the Netherlands, in 1995 was icing on the cake. In his Nobel banquet speech, Rowland noted mankind's long fascination with the atmosphere. But it was his own dogged curiosity that spared the world from a potential environmental crisis.

"He was the perfect spokesperson for this issue," Blake said. "He was austere, well-spoken and had a lot of confidence. He didn't get emotional" when challenged.

The ozone discovery earned Rowland many prizes and prestige. He served as president of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and was a longtime member of the National Academy of Sciences. He remained active at UC Irvine long after most of his peers retired and until earlier this year continued working in his campus office at Rowland Hall, which is named for him. As the Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry and Earth Science, he traveled widely to lecture and consult on environmental issues and prodded younger researchers in the Irvine chemistry department.

Besides his wife of nearly 60 years, Rowland is survived by two children, Ingrid and Jeffrey, and two grandchildren.

sharon.roan@latimes.com

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