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Ralph J. Cicerone: His scientific legacy and a long friendship

  1. Veerabhadran Ramanathana,1
  1. aScripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093

The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole and anthropogenic climate change has thrust the atmospheric sciences into the forefront of scientific disciplines, and such findings routinely appear on the front pages of the media and on the desks of world leaders. Two events can be cited as examples of the ascendency of the atmospheric sciences. First was the award of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three atmospheric chemists who performed pioneering work on the stability of the ozone layer. Second was the 2005 election of Ralph J. Cicerone as president of the esteemed National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which counts among its members the nation’s preeminent scientists in all of the primary scientific disciplines. Ralph also contributed to the award of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry through his seminal work with another young scientist, Richard Stolarski, in 1974 (1) on the stability of the ozone layer. With Stolarski, Ralph showed how chlorine radicals were catalytically destroying ozone molecules in the stratosphere. Indeed, the 1995 Nobel committee for the chemistry prize acknowledged the Cicerone–Stolarski discovery of chlorine catalysis.

Ralph J. Cicerone. Photograph by Mark Finkenstaedt and image courtesy of the National Academy of Sciences.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Ralph was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on May 2, 1943, into a close-knit extended family. He died at his home on November 5, 2016 in Short Hills, New Jersey, in the company of his wife, Professor Emerita Carol Cicerone, and their daughter and two grandchildren. According to Ralph, his primary focus during his junior high and high school years was on sports: “any kind.” He went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he majored in electrical engineering as an undergraduate and was …

?1Email: vramanathan{at}ucsd.edu.

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