Lynn Margulis
A.B., University of Chicago, 1957; M.S., University of Wisconsin, 1960; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1963.

Distinguished University Professor

Microbial Evolution and Organelle Heredity

University of Massachusetts
Department of Geosciences
Morrill Science Center
611 North Pleasant Street
Amherst MA 01003-9297
phone: 413-545-3244

             Lynn Margulis is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, received from William J. Clinton the Presidential Medal of Science in 1999. The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., announced in 1998 that it will permanently archive her papers. She was a faculty mentor at Boston University for 22 years.

            Her publications, spanning a wide range of scientific topics, include original contributions to cell biology and microbial evolution. She is best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges a central tenet of neodarwinism. She argues that inherited variation, significant in evolution, does not come mainly from random mutations. Rather new tissues, organs, and even new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers. The fusion of genomes in symbioses followed by natural selection, she suggests, leads to increasingly complex levels of individuality. Dr. Margulis is also acknowledged for her contribution to James E. Lovelock’s Gaia concept. Gaia theory posits that the Earth’s surface interactions among living beings sediment, air, and water have created a vast self-regulating system.

            Professor Margulis, who participates in hands-on teaching activities at levels from middle to graduate school, is the author of many articles and books. The most recent include Symbiotic Planet: A new look at evolution (1998) and Acquiring Genomes: A theory of the origins of species (2002), co-written with Dorion Sagan. Indeed, over the past decade and a half, Professor Margulis has co-written a number of books with Sagan, among them What is Sex? (1997), What is Life? (1995), Mystery Dance: On the evolution of human sexuality (1991), Microcosmos: Four billion years of evolution from our microbial ancestors (1986), and Origins of Sex: Three billion years of genetic recombination (1986). Her work with K. V. Schwartz provides a consistent formal classification of all life on Earth and has lead to the third edition of Five Kingdoms: An illustrated guide to the phyla of life on Earth (1998). Their evolutionary classification scheme was generated from scientific results of numerous colleagues. The logical basis for it is summarized in her single-authored book Symbiosis in Cell Evolution: Microbial communities in the Archean and Proterozoic eons (second edition, 1993). The bacterial origins of both chloroplasts and mitochondria are established. At present she works on the possible origin of cilia from spirochetes.

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NASA Planetary Biology Internship

Last revised 4 November
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