Lynn Margulis, brilliant biologist, dies at 73.

Lynn Margulis, brilliant biologist, dies at 73. Dr. Margulis was Professor at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is best known for the endosymbiont theory , that eukaryotic cells (like ours, with nuclei), evolved from symbiotic relationships with bacteria. In fact, cellular organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts quite clearly link to bacterial origins, including having their own genetic material.

• Her work directly challenged prevailing Darwinian views that evolution was purely the result of random mutations. Rather, Dr. Margulis argued that symbiosis was a more important mechanism: evolution is a function of organisms that are mutually beneficial growing together to become one and reproducing.

• Although these ideas are mainstream now, they were subject to much ridicule: her manuscript was rejected by 15 journals before being published in 1967! Richard Dawkins said of her, “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.”

• Her work on the Gaia theory (with James Lovelock), that Earth is itself an organism, is more controversial.

• She was once married to Carl Sagan and they have a son, Dorian Sagan, who co-authored books with her.

Read more about her work:

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6 Responses to Lynn Margulis, brilliant biologist, dies at 73.

  1. Adios, Lynn. Job well done.

  2. Newer understood the correct etiquette in cases such as these, anyway as a rule of thumb I never +1 news that make me sad.

    That said, I never quite admired Gaia theory, but I can still remember the first time I heard, in High-school, that eukaryotic cells were in fact the result of a symbiosis. What an impact that had on me!

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    João Figueiredo , my next post will be about a living scientist..I’m tired of writing obits. We should appreciate scientists while they are still alive! That said, okay to +1 as appreciation for her accomplishments, right? Yeah, Gaia theory sounds all New Age-ish to me for the endosymbiont theory..I do think that was Nobel worthy in terms of its impact on modern biology.

  4. Kapil Ranade says:

    Symbiogenesis was a bold idea to propose. Steely courage and intellectual conviction it would have required to stand against the mainstream like that!

  5. Peying Fong says:

    Saw this the other day and like many feel the enormity of this loss. What a life and what a great mind–what she stood for certainly will live on.

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