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Awards and honors

The Boston Museum of Science has given its prestigious Walker Prize to Nobel laureate Professor Mario J. Molina, "whose life and work stand as testimony to the potential for achievement to be found in all segments of our diverse society."

The prize, which recognizes "meritorious published scientific investigation and discovery, was award to Dr. Molina, a native of Mexico, "in honor of his leadership role in developing scientific understanding of ozone depletion."

Dr. Molina, who is the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Sciences, holds joint appointments in the Departments of Chemistry and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

"Beginning with an article published in the British magazine Nature in 1974," the prize announcement said, "Dr. Molina has been a world leader in understanding the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer and the effect of chlorofluorocarbon gases upon it. It was this research that laid the groundwork for the 1985 discovery of the ozone hole over the South Pole, and eventually to the 1987 United Nation's Montreal Protocol banning the production of CFCs beginning in 1996."

Dr. Molina's research over two decades into the workings of the earth's upper atmosphere and the mechanics of ozone depletion led to his sharing of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Professors F. Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen. The award marked the first time the Nobel Prize has recognized research into man-made effects on the environment.

The American Institute of Physics has recognized Professor Alan Lightman's success as a writer drawing on his scientific background by selecting him to receive its 1996 Andrew Gemant Award for linking physics to the humanities and for increasing public understanding of science.

The citation states that Professor Lightman, "not content with a distinguished career as an astrophysicist, science writer and teacher, wrote the widely read Einstein's Dreams and Good Benito, whose lyrical prose conveys deep insight into the inner life of the theoretical physicist."

Dr. Lightman, John E. Burchard Professor of Science and Writing and head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, taught astronomy and physics at Harvard University before coming to MIT in 1989. He received the AB (1970) in physics from Princeton University and the MS (1973) and PhD (1974) in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology. Among his publications are two widely used textbooks.

Dr. Lightman's award is named for the late Andrew Gemant, a physicist who wrote six books, 328 scientific papers and 16 volumes of short stories.

The first winner, in 1987, was Dr. Philip Morrison, Institute Professor and professor of physics emeritus. The late Professor Cyril S. Smith of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering won the award in 1991.

Dr. George S. Boolos, professor of philosophy, has been chosen as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. He is among 158 artists, scholars and scientists selected from among 2,791 applicants for fellowship awards totaling $4.5 million.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of unusually distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

Professor Boolos's fields of specialty are logic and the philosophy of mathematics. He is president of the Association for Symbolic Logic. He holds the BA in mathematics from Princeton University (1961), the BPhil in philosophy from the University of Oxford (1963) and the PhD in philosophy from MIT (1966). He joined the MIT faculty in 1969 after teaching philosophy at Columbia University.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 8, 1996.

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