Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan
Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan
Photo: UMASS Photo Services
Lynn Margulis, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1983. She is best known for her pathbreaking work on the bacterial origins of cell organelles and for her collaboration with Dr. James Lovelock on his "Gaia hypothesis," (she still communicates with Dr. Lovelock). Margulis writes about planetary life, planetary evolution, and the ways our views of them are changing. In her work she vigorously puts forward the view that symbiosis (members of different species living in physical contact with one another) is crucial to the origins of evolutionary novelty. Margulis' work represents a prime example of "narratives of discovery." Her publications, spanning a wide range of scientific topics, range from professional to children's literature and include 23 authored or co-authored books. Her books include Symbiotic Planet [A New Look at Evolution], Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, Five Kingdoms with (K. V. Schwartz) and (with Dorion Sagan) Origins of Sex, Garden of Microbial Delights, What Is Life?, What is Sex?, and Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis and Evolution. She has also participated in the development of science teaching materials at levels from elementary to graduate school. She published a hands-on middle school unit with students and colleagues: "What Happens to Trash and Garbage? An Introduction to the Carbon Cycle" and has developed several others, including "Peas and Particles" and "Living Sands: Mapping Time and Space."

Margulis received an A.B. (Liberal Arts) from the University of Chicago, an M.S. (Genetics-Zoology) from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. (Genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. She held a Sherman Fairchild Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology (1977) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1979). She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (1983), the World Academy of Art and Science (1995), the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (1997) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1998) and was recently (Nov., 1999) awarded the Sigma Xi's distinguished Proctor Prize. She has received eight honorary doctorate degrees, national and international. She has made contributions to research on cell biology and on microbial evolution. From 1977 to 1980, she chaired the National Academy of Science's Space Science Board Committee on Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution, aiding in the development of research strategies for NASA. She received a NASA Public Service award in 1981. Currently, she serves on the science council of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, and co-directs NASA's Planetary Biology Internship (PBI) Program, administered through the Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole.

Her current projects include studies of the bacterial symbionts of termites and of protists from microbial mat communities and she readily admits to obtaining great pleasure from spying on, filming, and writing scientific papers on the lives of protoctists and other microcosmic beings with whom we share our planet Nearly thirty years after she first proposed it, Margulis continues to work out the consequences of the modern serial endosymbiosis theory (SET).

Dr. Margulis lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. She is the mother of four children, the oldest of whom is her co-writer, Dorion Sagan.