Lynn Margulis (born March 5, 1938) is an American biologist and University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is best known for her theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles, and her contributions to the endosymbiotic theory, which is now generally accepted for how certain organelles were formed.
In addition to rejecting Neo-Darwinian evolution as an explanation for diversity (on the grounds of her belief that random mutation and differential survival are insufficient to account for speciation), Margulis holds a number of opinions outside of mainstream science. In 2009 she co-authored a paper arguing that the change in spirochete form, from more motile helical to more inactive cyst and back, may be a causal contributor to AIDS. In 2009 she also pushed the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) to publish a paper by Donald I. Williamson arguing that butterflies are the result of hybridization of a now extinct insect and velvet worms. Williamson's paper provoked immediate response from the scientific community, including a paper in PNAS. Developmental Biologist and Professor at Duke university Fred Nijhout was quoted as saying that the paper was better suited for "National Enquirer than the National Academy.". In September it was announced that PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010 but PNAS stated that the decision had nothing to do with the Williamson controversy.
Margulis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and served as Chairman of the Academy’s Space Science Board Committee on Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution.
guest Hagey Lecturer, University of Waterloo, 1985
She was inducted into the World Academy of Art and Science, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences between 1995 and 1998.
In 1998 the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, announced that it would permanently archive Dr. Margulis' papers.
In 1999 she received the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement for scientific achievement.
In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President William J. Clinton.
She is also a proponent and co-developer of the modern version of Gaia hypothesis, based on an idea developed by the English atmospheric scientist James Lovelock.
She is profiled in a book published in 2006 by Resurgence Magazine in the UK, called Visionaries: The 20th Century's 100 Most Important Inspirational Leaders.
In 2006 with her son Dorion, she founded Sciencewriters Books, an imprint of Chelsea Green Publishing for science books.
In 2007 she expressed her support for a new investigation of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In 2008 she was one of thirteen recipients of the Darwin-Wallace Medal, which, until now, has only been bestowed every 50 years, by the Linnean Society of London.
In March 2009 she spoke at the Biological Evolution Facts and Theories Conference held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome aimed at promoting dialogue between evolutionary biology and Christianity.
In June 2010 she was inducted into the Leonardo DaVinci Society of Thinking[relevant? – discuss]; accepting induction at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ.
Lynn Margulis attended the University of Chicago, earned a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1960, and received her Ph.D. in 1963 from UC Berkeley. In 1966, as a young faculty member at Boston University, she wrote a theoretical paper entitled The Origin of Mitosing Eukaryotic Cells. The paper however was "rejected by about fifteen scientific journals," Margulis recalled. It was finally accepted by The Journal of Theoretical Biology and is considered today a landmark in modern endosymbiotic theory. Although it draws heavily on symbiosis ideas first put forward by mid-19th century scientists and by Merezhkovsky (1905) and Wallin (1920) in the early-20th century, Margulis's endosymbiotic theory formulation is the first to rely on direct microbiological observations (as opposed to paleontological or zoological observations which were previously the norm for new works in evolutionary biology). The paper was initially heavily rejected, as symbiosis theories had been dismissed by mainstream biology at the time. Weathering constant criticism of her ideas for decades, Margulis is famous for her tenacity in pushing her theory forward, despite the opposition she faced at the time.
The underlying theme of endosymbiotic theory, as formulated in 1966, was interdependence and cooperative existence of multiple prokaryotic organisms; one organism engulfed another, yet both survived and eventually evolved over millions of years into eukaryotic cells. Her 1970 book, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, discusses her early work pertaining to this organelle genesis theory in detail. Currently, her endosymbiotic theory is recognized as the key method by which some organelles have arisen (see endosymbiotic theory for a discussion) and is widely accepted by mainstream scientists. The endosymbiotic theory of organogenesis gained strong support in the 1980s, when the genetic material of mitochondria and chloroplasts was found to be different from that of the symbiont's nuclear DNA.
In 1995, prominent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins had this to say about Lynn Margulis and her work:
“ I greatly admire Lynn Margulis's sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy. I'm referring to the theory that the eukaryotic cell is a symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells. This is one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, and I greatly admire her for it.