July 28, 2014

Lynn Margulis

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of MBL Corporation member Dr. Lynn Margulis, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who died November 22 at age 73. The MBL flag will be lowered in her memory.

Lynn was one of the world’s pre-eminent evolutionary biologists. She is best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges the central tenets of Neo-Darwinism. She is also known for her contribution to the Gaia hypothesis, the concept that Earth and its living beings function as a self-regulating system. Her monographs, including Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (Margulis and Schwartz) helped to inspire numerous scientific careers. Margulis also authored or edited several books, including Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origin of Species.

Lynn was a beloved and respected member of the MBL community and she will be missed. “The world has lost an extraordinary mind and force in the modern era of biology, ” said MBL President Gary Borisy, who knew Lynn well.

During her career, Lynn participated in hands-on teaching from middle school to graduate school levels and was a valued member of the MBL’s education program. She served on the faculty of the Microbial Ecology course (1979, 1981); Embryology course (1984), and Molecular Evolution course (1995). Lynn was the principal investigator of the NASA Planetary Biology Internship Program, sponsored and administered by the MBL, which provides opportunities for graduate students to take part in planetary biology research at NASA centers and universities.

Prior to joining the faculty of University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1988, Lynn had been a biology professor at Boston University for 22 years. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and received the Presidential Medal of Science from President Clinton in 1999. In 1998, The Library of Congress announced that it would permanently archive her papers. Lynn served as president of Sigma Xi from 2005 to 2006, the scientific research society from which she received the Proctor Prize for scientific achievement in 1999.

Lynn’s publications spanned a wide-range of scientific topics, mainly in cell biology and microbial evolution. She was the author of many articles and books including a number co-written with her son, science writer, essayist, and theorist Dorion Sagan.