Alumna Lynn Margulis dies at 73, following distinguished scientific career

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

National Science medalist Lynn Margulis, AB’57, Lab,'54, one of the most influential biologists of her day, died Nov. 24 at her home in Amherst, Mass., at the age of 73.

Margulis, who was a distinguished university professor in geophysical sciences at the University of Massachusetts, received the 1999 National Medal of Science from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. She was cited “for outstanding contributions to the understanding of the development, structure, and evolution of living things and for extraordinary abilities as a teacher and communicator of science to the public.”

Margulis was internationally known for her research on the evolution of eukaryotic cells — cells that have a nucleus. She also was a leading proponent of the idea that the merger of previously independent organisms is of great importance to evolutionary change.

She also worked to support the Gaia Theory, the idea that Earth’s temperature and chemical composition are actively regulated as a consequence of the metabolism, growth, death and evolution of interacting organisms.

Margulis graduated from the College at age 17 with a degree in liberal arts and went on to earn her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Her first husband was Carl Sagan, AB'54, SM'55, SM'56, PhD'60, whom Margulis met while she was a student in the College. Her survivors include three sons, Dorion and Jeremy Sagan and Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma; a daughter, Jennifer Margulis; and nine grandchildren.