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Co-discoverer of ozone hole dies

Posted on behalf of Charlotte Stoddart.

Joe Farman, one of three British scientists who discovered a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer, died on 11 May (see obituaries in The Guardian and The Telegraph).

It was exactly 28 years ago yesterday (on 16 May 1985) that Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin published their finding in Nature. It prompted global action to ban chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the man-made chemicals that were breaking down ozone high in the atmosphere. The ozone hole still appears above Antarctica every spring, but it is on the mend and scientists hope that it will be completely healed in the next century.

The paper is the subject of episode two of our new podcast series, The Nature PastCast.

In the podcast, Farman’s colleague Jonathan Shanklin recalls sifting through a backlog of ozone data from the British Antarctic Survey’s station at Halley Bay. At first, he remembers, Farman thought that the springtime dip in ozone was a one-off. Shanklin says he was the ‘little voice’ in the background that convinced Farman that the dip in ozone had happened every spring for several years, demonstrating a systematic decline.

Unfortunately, Farman himself was too unwell to be interviewed for our podcast, but his version of events can be heard in an interview published by the British Library, as part of its Oral Histories project.


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    Sergio Stagnaro said:

    Greatest scientist, Joe Farman! I pray for his soul. And now, I ask myself, considering today’s distressing preventive mastectomy and prostatectomy, when another Joe Farman will discover a ‘hole’ in the human intelligence brain layer?

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