The Holy Father has appointed as an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) the distinguished Professor Susan Solomon, lecturer in atmospheric chemistry at the School of Science – Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Cambridge, United States of America.
Professor Susan Solomon was born on January 19, 1956, in Chicago, USA. In her hometown, she began studying chemistry at the Illinois Institute of Technology, earning her PhD in atmospheric chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. She currently teaches atmospheric chemistry at the School of Science – Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and directs the Chemistry and Climate Processes Group of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Her name is linked to research that has produced important findings on the causes of the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer.
She is best known for having both pioneered the theory explaining how and why the ozone hole occurs in Antarctica and obtaining some of the first chemical measurements establishing manmade chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as its cause, according to her biography in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Solomon forged an early interest in science while watching such shows as The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. By high school, she directed her focus toward atmospheric science after placing in a national science contest. Her project measured the amount of oxygen in various gaseous mixtures. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Solomon earned her doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1981, she began working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado. She is now the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT.
In 1986 and 1987, Solomon led expeditions to Antarctica, observing that levels of chlorine dioxide were one hundred times greater than predicted. This was the first direct evidence that pointed to chlorine chemistry as the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole. Solomon received the National Medal of Science in 1999 in chemistry for “her key scientific insights in explaining the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole and for advancing the understanding of the global ozone layer; for changing the direction of ozone research through her findings; and for exemplary service to worldwide public policy decisions and to the American public.”
Her current research includes climate change, ozone depletion, and the links between them. She served as co-chair of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2002-2008. The IPCC provides comprehensive scientific assessments of climate change for the public and for policymakers. The organization shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Albert Gore, Jr. in 2007.
Solomon has received numerous other awards in recognition of her work, including the Blue Planet Prize from the Asahi Foundation in Japan, the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Medal from the American Meteorological Society, and the William Bowie Medal from the American Geophysical Union. Antarctica’s Solomon Glacier and Solomon Saddle were named in honor of her research.