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Nobel winner F. Sherwood Rowland was also a noted athlete

March 12, 2012 |  4:13 pm

Sherwood rowland

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Turns out that the man who put the world on notice that the Earth’s protective ozone layer was being destroyed by chemicals had some skills beside chemistry

Like turning a double play, or making an outside jumper.

Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, a 1995 Nobel Prize winner who died Saturday at his home in Corona del Mar, was a star basketball player in high school and played semipro baseball in Canada after his first year of grad school at the University of Chicago.

“He was 6 feet 5, extraordinarily smart and didn't mind setting a hard pick in the lane,” L.A. Times sportswriter Diane Pucin observed in a 2000 column.

Rowland played baseball, tennis and a bit of hoops and was eventually inducted into the GT Acamedic All-American Hall of Fame along with NBA star Danny Ainge and NFL quarterback Oliver Luck.

His sports career, however, paled in contrast to his academic prowess.

Rowland, a professor at UC Irvine, was one of three people who discovered that manmade chemicals – everything from hair spray to industrial solvent – were chewing their way through the ozone layer, the thin protective shield that guarded humankind against the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.

During his research, Rowland told his wife how his work was progressing. “The work is going well. But it looks like the end of the world.”

It took more than a decade and a half before the world accepted his findings. In the late 1980s, manufacturers began phasing out chlorofluorocarbons.

[For the Record, 4:58 p.m. March 12: In an earlier version of this post, Rowland's name was mispelled Rowan in the headline.] 


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-- Steve Marble

Photo: Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland. Credit: Rick Loomis