Would you risk a sterling career and an outstanding reputation if it would mean a chance to save the earth from environmental devastation? UC Irvine Professor F. Sherwood Rowland did this beginning in 1974 when he, along with equally gutsy postdoctoral research associate Mario Molina, first warned that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) released into the atmosphere were depleting earth’s critical ozone layer. Media reaction to their research findings was swift, and laws to limit the manufacture of CFCs were proposed, starting with a ban on CFCs as aerosol propellants in consumer products. These proposals drew steep resistance from chemical manufacturers who launched a campaign to challenge the CFC-ozone connection.
Nevertheless, further research on CFCs and stratospheric ozone by Rowland, Molina, and others eventually led in the 1970s to legislation in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia regulating the manufacture and use of CFCs. In 1987, the first international agreement for controlling and ameliorating environmental damage to the global atmosphere was signed. The terms of the agreement, named the Montreal Protocol of the United Nations Environment Programme, were strengthened in 1992 to attain a complete elimination of further CFC production by the year 1996. Measurements in the atmosphere have confirmed that CFC emissions on a global scale have essentially stopped.
In 1995, Rowland shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Molina and Paul Crutzen, “for their work on atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone.” Rowland has authored or co-authored more than 430 scientific publications. He has been internationally recognized with numerous awards and honors, not only for his groundbreaking work in the laboratory, but also for his efforts to inform other scientists, the public, and policymakers about threats posed by chemical pollutants to earth’s atmosphere.
The F. Sherwood Rowland Papers, MS-F029, document his role the center of the controversies surrounding not only CFCs and ozone depletion, but also global climate change. Rowland served as a frequent spokesperson on these atmospheric environmental problems in both broadcast and print media, and his newly-available papers include more than 150 audio and video recordings, primarily of his broadcast appearances, lectures, and testimony before legislative bodies. Also included are audio recordings and transcripts of never-broadcast interviews; photographs; award certificates, plaques, and honorary diplomas; and ephemera including posters. As the finding aid shows, the collection also includes a large amount of manuscript material such as manuscripts of published and unpublished writings and speeches; reports and report drafts; correspondence; clippings; notes; meeting and committee materials.
Rowland is now the Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry in Earth System Science at UC Irvine. As of 2011 he continues to run the Rowland-Blake Laboratory here with his research partner, Donald Blake.