Professor Paul Joseph Crutzen Featured

Professor Paul J. Crutzen has made and continues to make, major contributions both to environmental research and to rational political discussions that lead to enhanced environmental protection measures. In 1969, he was the first to propose that nitrogen oxides (NOx), some of which could be produced by human activities including nuclear explosions and the operation of high-flying aircraft, are capable of destroying stratospheric ozone catalytically. This work led directly to a large expansion in research efforts on the stability of the ozone layer and to the identification of further threats from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Then in 1973, Prof. Crutzen opened the field of tropospheric chemistry by demonstrating through theory that a rich variety of chemical reactions must occur (driven by sunlight). Some of these reactions are more intense in polluted regions while some proceed in remote, unpolluted regions. In this research, he demonstrated the central role of NOx gases from human-caused high-temperature combustion processes. Still in the 1970s, he was a leader in mapping out the response of the stratospheric ozone layer to nitrogen and chlorine compounds, and he identified carbonyl sulphide as the most important non-volcanic source of stratospheric aerosol particles that can affect the Earth's climate. In the late 1970s, he identified tropical biomass burning as an important pollution source affecting ozone formation and atmospheric chemistry, and in 1982, with Birks, the possible atmospheric and climate consequences of a large scale nuclear war ("nuclear winter"). The "nuclear winter" theory has had profound impact on the debate concerning nuclear disarmament. During the 1980s, Prof. Crutzen expanded the scope of his biogeochemical research to include global perturbations of the nitrogen cycle, and the role of greenhouse gases in disturbing Earth's climate. Throughout, he has remained a world leader in the investigations of the ozone layer, in providing understanding of the Antarctic ozone hole and how human-produced CFCs lead to ozone depletion. In summary, Professor Crutzen has played a leading role in showing that human activity can have significant effects on the global atmospheric environment. There is no doubt that he has made an outstanding contribution to the sum of our knowledge in atmospheric chemistry - a new area of atmospheric science.

Additional Info

  • Location:


    Airchemistry Department

    Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry

    P.O. Box 3060

    D-55020 Mainz, Germany

  • Phone Number: (49 6131) 305 458
  • Fax Number: (49 6131) 305 511
  • E-mail: Not Available At This Time
  • Website: Paul Joseph Crutzen Biography