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Nobel laureate Dr Paul Crutzen speaks at McGill

Published: 1 Mar 2000

Nobel laureate Dr Paul Crutzen to speak at McGill March 8. His research showed that the ozone layer is in peril.

Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen, whose research set off alarm bells warning of the fragility of the Earth’s ozone layer, will be at McGill University March 8, 2000, to deliver a Beatty Memorial Lecture. Together with two colleagues, F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, Crutzen received the 1995 Nobel prize for alerting the world to the possiblity that human-manufactured gaseous compounds could destroy the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects life on earth from damaging solar ultraviolet radiation. Dr Crutzen will speak at 7 pm in the Fieldhouse Auditorium, Leacock Building, Room 26, downtown McGill campus. The public is welcome.

All three scientists met with considerable opposition over several decades. Crutzen’s discovery that the nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 act as catalysts to speed decomposition of the ozone layer, and Rowland’s and Molina’s subsequent predictions that continued use of CFC gases (widely used in aerosol sprays, air conditioners, refrigerators and the manufacture of plastics) would create serious problems sparked intense debate and investigation. "Today we know that they were right in all essentials. It was to turn out that they had even underestimated the risk," said the members of the Swedish Academy responsible for awarding the Nobel prize. The signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, under which industrialized nations agreed to phase out the production of CFCs, was largely prompted by the findings of Crutzen, Rowland and Molina.

Born in Amsterdam, Paul Crutzen received his PhD in meteorology from Stockholm University in 1973, producing a thesis that looked at pollution of the stratosphere by high-flying aircraft. Since 1980 he has been a member of the renowned Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, and since 1992, a part-time professor at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, California. Dr Crutzen describes his main research interests as stratospheric and tropospheric chemistry, and their role in the biochemical cycles and climate.

The title of Dr Crutzen’s talk is "The importance of the tropics in atmospheric chemistry: Natural processes and growing perturbations by mankind." No tickets are required. Parking is limited.

Endowed to honour the memory of McGill Chancellor Sir Edward Beatty in 1954, the Beatty Memorial Lectures bring internationally renowned scientists, artists and literary figures from outside Canada to meet with students, faculty and staff at the University and to speak to the public on topics of widespread interest.

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