|Alma mater||B.S. (1977), Illinois Institute of Technology, M.S. (1979), Ph.D. (1981) University of California, Berkeley|
|Known for||Ozone Studies|
|Awards||National Medal of Science (1999)|
V. M. Goldschmidt Award (2006)
William Bowie Medal (2007)
Volvo Environment Prize (2009)
2012 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award
2018 Crafoord Prize
Susan Solomon (born January 19, 1956 in Chicago) is an American atmospheric chemist, working for most of her career at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2011, Solomon joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she serves as the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science. Solomon, with her colleagues, was the first to propose the chlorofluorocarbon free radical reaction mechanism that is the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.
Solomon is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the French Academy of Sciences. In 2002, Discover magazine recognized her as one of the 50 most important women in science. In 2008, Solomon was selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She also serves on the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Solomon's interest in science began as a child watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. In high school she placed third in a national science, with a project that measured the percent of oxygen in a gas mixture.
Solomon received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1977. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981, where she specialized in atmospheric chemistry.
Solomon married Barry Sidwell in 1988. She is Jewish.
Solomon was the head of the Chemistry and Climate Processes Group of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chemical Sciences Division until 2011. In 2011, she joined the faculty of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Solomon, working with colleagues at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, postulated the mechanism that the Antarctic ozone hole was created by a heterogeneous reaction of ozone and chlorofluorocarbons free radicals on the surface of ice particles in the high altitude clouds that form over Antarctica. In 1986 and 1987 Solomon led the National Ozone Expedition to McMurdo Sound, where the team gathered the evidence to confirm the accelerated reactions. Solomon was the solo leader of the expedition, and the only woman on the team. Her team measured levels of chlorine oxide 100 times higher than expected in the atmosphere, which had been released by the decomposition of chlorofluorocarbons by ultraviolet radiation.
Solomon later showed that volcanoes could accelerate the reactions caused by chlorofluorocarbons, and so increase the damage to the ozone layer. Her work formed the basis of the U.N. Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the ozone layer by regulating damaging chemicals. Solomon has also presented some research which suggests that implementation of the Montreal Protocols is having a positive effect.
Using research work conducted by English explorer and navy officer Robert Falcon Scott, Solomon also wrote and spoke about Scott's 1911 expedition in The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition to counter a longstanding argument that blamed Scott for his and his crew's demise during that expedition. Scott attributed his death to unforeseen weather conditions – a claim that has been contested by British journalist and author Roland Huntford. Huntford claimed that Scott was a prideful and under-prepared leader. Solomon has defended Scott and said that "modern data side squarely with Scott", describing the weather conditions in 1911 as unusual.
For her critical contribution to saving the ozone layer, Solomon was a winner of the 2021 Future of Life Award along with Joe Farman and Stephen O. Andersen. Dr. Jim Hansen, former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Director of Columbia University's Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions said, "In Farman, Solomon and Andersen we see the tremendous impact individuals can have not only on the course of human history, but on the course of our planet's history. My hope is that others like them will emerge in today's battle against climate change." Professor Guus Velders, a climate scientist at Utrecht University said, "Susan Solomon is a deserving recipient of the Future of Life Award. Susan not only explained the processes behind the formation of the ozone hole, she also played an active role as an interface between the science and policy of the Montreal Protocol."
Solomon served the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She was a contributing author for the Third Assessment Report. She was also co-chair of Working Group I for the Fourth Assessment Report.
|“Whatever Happened to the Ozone Hole?”, Distillations Podcast Episode 230, April 17, 2018, Science History Institute|