Paul J. Crutzen

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Paul Crutzen (2010)

Paul Josef Crutzen [ˈkrutsə] (born December 3, 1933 in Amsterdam , † January 28, 2021 ) was a Dutch meteorologist . From 1980 to 2000 he was director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 for his work in the field of atmospheric chemistry .

Youth and school attendance

Crutzen was born just a few years before the start of World War II . In September 1940 he started primary school. After many delays caused by the war, he finished primary school and in 1946 switched to the Hogere Burgerschool (secondary school), where he learned to speak French, English and German. In addition, he concentrated on the field of natural sciences. He graduated from this school in 1951. He then attended a technical college, where he studied civil engineering . After two years working in a design office, he completed the twenty-one month military service that was then mandatory in the Netherlands.

Scientific career

After various jobs in the construction sector, he went to Sweden in 1959 . There he first worked as a computer programmer at Stockholm University in the department of meteorology. Enthusiastic about this science, he began studying parallel to his work, which he completed with a master's degree. In 1968 he received his doctorate in meteorology with distinction. He later taught at the Faculty of Meteorology at Stockholm University. In 1973 Paul Crutzen completed his habilitation at the Meteorological Institute of Stockholm University (MISU) with the thesis On the photochemistry of ozone in the stratosphere and troposphere and pollution of the stratosphere by high-flying aircraft .

Crutzen's main area of ​​research was the chemistry of the atmosphere. Most famous are his work on ozone depletion in the stratosphere . In 1970 he pointed out that the emissions of nitrous oxide (N 2 O), a stable gas mainly produced by soil bacteria, influence the content of nitrogen oxides in the stratosphere. Crutzen showed that nitrous oxide is long enough to reach the stratosphere. There it is converted into nitrogen monoxide (NO), which above about 30 kilometers together with NO 2 destroys ozone in a catalytic cycle. This catalytic cycle is the most important sink for ozone in the natural stratosphere and counteracts ozone production through UV photolysis of oxygen molecules. Crutzen pointed out that the increasing use of fertilizers leads to an increase in nitrous oxide emissions and thus to an increase in NO in the stratosphere, and thus human activities affect the stratospheric ozone layer. In the following year (1971), Crutzen and (independently) Harold Johnston pointed out that the NO emissions of the then-designed fleet of supersonic aircraft (several hundred Boeing 2707 ), which were to fly in the lower stratosphere, were also the Could reduce the ozone layer. Although recent studies put the extent of this problem into perspective, they confirmed that there is a fundamental effect on the ozone layer.

1977–1980 Crutzen headed a department at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado , USA. In 1980 Paul Crutzen was appointed Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Max Planck Society and in 1980 succeeded Christian Junge as Director in the Department of Atmospheric Chemistry. He has also taught at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego and at the National University of Seoul , South Korea and the Georgia Institute of Technology and was Associate Professor in the Meteorology Department at Stockholm University, Sweden. In the 1980s, Paul Crutzen made a major contribution to the elucidation of the physical and chemical basis for the formation of the ozone hole . In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on ozone together with Mario J. Molina and Frank S. Rowland .


He died on January 28, 2021 at the age of 87 after a long illness.


He was a signatory to a letter from more than 70 Nobel Prize winners to the Louisiana Parliament calling for the repeal of Louisiana's creationism law , the Louisiana Science Education Act .

In 2003, Crutzen was one of 22 Nobel Prize winners and one of the signatories of the 3rd Humanist Manifesto “Humanism and Its Aspirations”. Between 1987 and 1990 he was a member of the Enquete Commission of the German Bundestag for "Protection of the Earth's Atmosphere". Crutzen is the former editor of the scientific journal Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry ; Member of the advisory committee until 2009. From 1998 to 2000 he was a member of the external advisory group for the implementation of the fifth framework program on “Global change, climate and biodiversity”, European Community , Brussels.

From 2001 Paul Crutzen was chairman of the advisory board of the interactive open access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP) .

Overview of scientific stations

  • before 1974: various teaching and research assignments at Stockholm University.
  • 1969–1971: Fellow of the European Space Research Organization at Oxford University, England.
  • 1974–1977: Adviser to the Aeronomy Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • 1977–1980: Scientific Director of the Air Quality Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.
  • 1976–1984: Honorary Professor at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Department of Atmospheric Sciences.
  • 1980–2000: Member of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and Director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.
  • 1987–1991: Professor (part-time) at the University of Chicago, USA, Department of Geophysical Sciences.
  • 1991–1992: Tage Erlander Professor of the Swedish Research Council at Stockholm University.
  • 1992–2008: Honorary Professor (part-time) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, La Jolla, USA.
  • 1997–2000: Professor (part-time) at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
  • Since November 2000: Emeritus, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Atmospheric Chemistry Department of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.
  • Since May 2008: Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, La Jolla, USA.

Research priorities

Main research area: The role of atmospheric chemistry in relation to climate and biogeochemical cycles.


One of Crutzen's research interests was the Anthropocene . In 2000, Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer suggested using the term Anthropocene for the current human geological epoch in IGBP Newsletter 41. Regarding their starting point, they wrote:

“Setting a more specific date for the beginning of the Anthropocene seems somewhat arbitrary to us, but we propose the second half of the 18th century when we are aware that alternative suggestions could be made (some even like the entire Holocene include). We choose this date anyway because the global effects of human activity have become clearly noticeable over the past two centuries. During this period, data obtained from glacial ice cores show the beginning of an increase in atmospheric concentrations of several “greenhouse gases”, particularly CO 2 and CH 4 . Such a start date also coincides with the introduction of Watt's steam engine in 1784. "

Global warming

Steve Connor, Science Editor for the Independent, wrote: Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, believes the political efforts to reduce man-made greenhouse gases are so pathetic that it is a radical contingency plan need. In a polemical science essay published in the August 2006 issue of Climate Change magazine, he says that an "escape route" is needed in the event global warming gets out of hand. Professor Crutzen has proposed a method to artificially cool the global climate by releasing sulfur particles in the upper atmosphere in conjunction with other particles at lower levels of the atmosphere that would reflect sunlight and heat back into space. This controversial proposal is taken seriously by scientists because Prof. Crutzen has a proven track record in the field of atmospheric research. If this artificial cooling method actually works, then humanity would be able to reverse some of the effects of the emissions caused by burning fossil fuels. This could buy the time that is needed to find alternative energy sources. This could be crucial when it comes to maintaining the planet's integrity and habitability, writes Crutzen. At the end of his paper, Paul Crutzen explicitly points out that "the best thing would be if the emissions of greenhouse gases could be reduced so much that stratospheric sulfur release attempts would not have to take place".

In January 2008, Paul Crutzen published results showing that the release of nitrous oxide (N 2 O) in the production of biofuels makes a greater contribution to global warming than the fossil fuels that they replace.

Nuclear winter

Crutzen is also a leading proponent of the theory of nuclear winter . Together with John Birks, he wrote the first publication that addressed the topic: The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon (1982). In it, the authors put forward theoretical considerations about the potential climate effects of large amounts of sooty smoke from forest fires and other fires that would be caused by war with nuclear weapons from urban industrial centers and oil storage facilities and would reach the middle and higher troposphere. They came to the conclusion that the absorption of sunlight by black smoke could lead to darkness and severe cooling at the surface of the earth, as well as a heating of the atmosphere at higher altitudes. The resulting atypical meteorological and climatic conditions would endanger agricultural production for a large part of humanity.


Honorary memberships

Honorary doctorates and professorships

Paul Crutzen Prize

In 2012 the Paul Crutzen Prize of the Society of German Chemists (GDCh) was awarded for the first time, which annually honors an excellent publication in the field of environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology. The price was derived from the price of the relevant specialist group of the GDCh.

Other honors

  • 2002: World's most cited author in the field of geosciences with 2911 citations from 110 publications, ISI (Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, USA)


Over 366 refereed and 135 other scientific publications in journals as well as 15 books.


In 1956 Crutzen met Terttu Soininen, with whom he has been married since 1958. In December of the same year, daughter Ilona was born. In March 1964, his second daughter Sylvia was born.

Publications (selection)

  • 1971: On some photochemical and meteorological factors determining the distribution of ozone in the stratosphere; effects of contamination by NO [subscript x] emitted from aircraft. Institute of Meteorology, University of Stockholm, Stockholm 1971, OCLC 38883363 .
  • 1986: Global Aspects of Atmospheric Chemistry. Natural and anthropogenic influences. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1986, ISBN 3-531-08347-3 .
  • 1986: with Jürgen Hahn: Schwarzer Himmel. Effects of nuclear war on the climate and the global environment. (Short version of the SCOPE report “Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War”) S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1986, ISBN 3-10-013103-7 .
  • 1989: the end of the blue planet? The climate collapse, dangers and ways out. Edited with Michael Müller , Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-331408 .
  • 1989: with Christoph Brühl: Analysis and evaluation of the model systems for predicting changes in the ozone content of the atmosphere. In: Environmental research plan of the Federal Minister of the Interior. 2 volumes. Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Air Chemistry Dept., Mainz 1989/1990, OCLC 180571796 .
  • 1995: with Veerabhadran Ramanathan : Clouds, chemistry and climate. Springer, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-540-60433-2 .
  • 1996: atmosphere, climate, environment. 2nd Edition. Spectrum, Akademie Verlag, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-8274-0122-4 .
  • 1996: main topic of the conference. Physical chemistry of the atmosphere. German Bunsen Society for Physical Chemistry, Frankfurt am Main 1999.
  • 2011: Spaceship Earth has no emergency exit. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-518-06176-3 .
  • 2019: with Michael Müller (Ed.): Das Anthropozän. Key texts by the Nobel Prize winner for the new geological age. Oekom, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-96238-137-0 .

Web links

Commons : Paul Crutzen  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ CV on curriculum vitae on (accessed on May 14, 2014).
  2. Biography - Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 on the Max Planck Institute website (accessed on May 14, 2014).
  3. Paul J. Crutzen: A Pioneer on Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Change in the Anthropocene , Crutzen, Paul J., Brauch, Hans Günter (Eds.), In: Springer Briefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice, Volume 50 2016, doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-319-27460-7 .
  4. Crutzen, PJ, 1996: My life with O3, NOx, and other YZOx compounds (Nobel Lecture) . Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl., 35, 1758-1777. doi : 10.1002 / anie.199617581 .
  5. Ramanathan, V .; Crutzen, PJ; Kiehl, JT; Rosenfeld, D. (2001). Aerosols, Climate, and the Hydrological Cycle . Science. 294 (5549): 2119-2124. bibcode : 2001Sci ... 294.2119R . doi : 10.1126 / science.1064034 . PMID 11739947 .
  6. Ramanathan, V .; Crutzen, PJ; Lelieveld, J .; Miter, AP; Althausen, D .; et al. (2001). Indian Ocean Experiment: An integrated analysis of the climate forcing and effects of the great Indo-Asian haze . Journal of Geophysical Research. 106 (D22): 28.371-28.398. bibcode : 2001JGR ... 10628371R . doi : 10.1029 / 2001JD900133 .
  7. Andreae, MO; Crutzen, PJ (1997). Atmospheric Aerosols: Biogeochemical Sources and Role in Atmospheric Chemistry . Science. 276 (5315): 1052-1058. doi : 10.1126 / science.276.5315.1052 .
  8. Dentener, FJ; Carmichael, GR; Zhang, Y .; Lelieveld, J .; Crutzen, PJ (1996). Role of mineral aerosol as a reactive surface in the global troposphere . Journal of Geophysical Research. 101 (D17): 22.869-22.889. doi : 10.1029 / 96jd01818 .
  9. ^ Crutzen, PJ; Andreae, MO (1990). Biomass Burning in the Tropics: Impact on Atmospheric Chemistry and Biogeochemical Cycles . Science. 250 (4988): 1669-1678. bibcode : 1990Sci ... 250.1669C . doi : 10.1126 / science.250.4988.1669 . PMID 17734705 .
  10. ^ Crutzen, PJ; Birks, JW (1982). The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon . Ambio. Allen Press. 11 (2/3): 114-125. doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-319-27460-7_5 , JSTOR 4312777 .
  11. Crutzen, PJ, 1970: The influence of nitrogen oxides on the atmospheric ozone content. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc. 96, 320-325.
  12. "Polar Ozone Depletion (Nobel Lecture)": Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English, Volume 35, Issue 16, September 6, 1996, Pages: 1778–1785, Prof. Dr. Mario J. Molina, doi : 10.1002 / anie.199617781
  13. ^ Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen dies. In: January 28, 2021, accessed January 28, 2021 .
  15. [1]
  16. In Leipzig: First award of the Paul Crutzen Prize , GDCh press release August 31, 2012 on IDW-online , accessed October 29, 2017
  17. ^ Crutzen 1989 (Planet) - foreword by Hans-Jochen Vogel (SPD), anthology with 20 authors, 21 figs., 9 tables, 271 pages.