UMass Amherst Biologist Lynn Margulis Awarded Honors by Peers in Russia and Canada

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts biologist Lynn Margulis is being honored by her peers in the scientific communities of two countries.

Margulis has recently been notified of her election as a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, in the biology and ecology section.

She will also be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Montreal March 21.

Margulis is Distinguished University Professor in the UMass biology department and an adjunct professor in the UMass department of geosciences.

Margulis is one of seven Foreign Members elected to the Russian Academy. Two others are from the U.S. - one from Stanford University and the second from the University of Illinois. The other new foreign inductees are from The Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, and the Ukraine. The Russian Academy is an organization of naturalists and humanitarians established to promote the development of science, education, and culture. Margulis was elected to this country’s National Academy of Sciences in 1983.

Margulis will receive her honorary degree - the sixth of her career - during ceremonies at the University of Montreal culminating a year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of that university’s department of biological sciences.

She is the single honorary degree recipient and is being recognized for her "exceptional career as a researcher and professor" and for her "fundamental contributions in the fields of biology and ecology."

"I am especially honored by this distinction," says Margulis, "because I hold my French-speaking colleagues at the Universite de Montreal in such high esteem, particularly Andre Fortin, professor and founder of the university’s Research Institute on Plant Biology that works with the city of Montreal’s fabulous botanical garden.

"I have also had a long-standing and genuinely international relationship with Professor Sorin Sonea, author of a ‘Manifesto for a New Bacteriology.’ Several other members of the Universite de Montreal are colleagues as well and to receive this honorary degree holds great meaning for me."

Margulis is internationally known for her research on the evolution of eukaryotic (nucleated) cells, or those of animals, plants, fungi, and protoctists. She is the leading proponent of the idea that symbiogenesis, the merger of previously independent organisms, is of great importance to evolutionary change. She has also widely supported the ‘Gaia theory,’ the idea that the Earth’s surface temperature and the reactive chemical composition of the atmosphere are regulated as a consequence of the metabolism, growth, death, and evolution of interacting organisms.

A member of the UMass faculty since 1988, Margulis received her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Chicago in 1957, her master’s degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1960, and her doctorate in genetics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1965.

Margulis is the author or co-author of hundreds of publications, including peer-reviewed journals and monographs, reviews, chapters, and books, plus children’s literature. In 1995, she co-authored the lavishly illustrated book "What is Life?" with her son, Dorion Sagan. The pair is currently working on another book due to be published in 1998 titled "What is Sex?"