Margulis, Lynn 1938-

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MARGULIS, Lynn 1938-

PERSONAL: Born March 5, 1938, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Morris (a lawyer) and Leone (a travel agent; maiden name, Wise) Alexander; married Carl Sagan (an astronomer and writer), June 16, 1957 (divorced, 1963); married Thomas N. Margulis (a crystallographer), January 18, 1967; children: (first marriage) Dorion, Jeremy; (second marriage) Zachary, Jenny. Education: University of Chicago, A.B., 1957; University of Wisconsin—Madison, M.S., 1960; University of California—Berkeley, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: "Closet radical." Religion: "I reject them all."

ADDRESSES: Home—Gibbs St., Newton Centre, MA 02159. Office—Biology Department, Morrill South, University of Massachusetts, Box 35810, Amherst, MA 01003-5810.

CAREER: Boston University, Boston, MA, assistant professor, 1967-71, associate professor, 1971-76, professor of biology, 1976-88. Lecturer at international conferences in Mexico and in London, England; Paris, France; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Barcelona, Spain; Ustaoset, Norway; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Leningrad, Russia. Chairman of committee on planetary biology and chemical evolution, Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences, 1978-81. Director of Biology, Brandeis University Peace Corps Colombia Project, summers, 1965, 1966; member of African Primary Science Project, Akosomba, Ghana, 1967. Consultant to Educational Development Center, and to Instituto Brasileiro de Educacao, Ciencia e Cultura (Brazilian Institute of Education, Science, and Culture), Sao Paulo, Brazil, summer, 1970; Scripps Institute of Oceanography, visiting professor, 1980; California Institute of Technology, visiting professor, 1980; NASA, Ames Planetary biology and Microbial Ecology Summer Research Program, 1980, 1982, 1984; Autonomous University of Barcelona, visiting professor, 1986; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, professor, 1988-99.

MEMBER: International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life, American Society of Microbiology, American Institute of Biological Science, Society for Evolutionary Pristology.

AWARDS, HONORS: Boston University Shell Award, 1967; George Lamb Award, 1972; Sherman Fairchild fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1977; Guggenheim fellow, 1979; Public Service Award, NASA, 1981; National Medal of Science, 2000; Commonwealth Award for Interpretive Scientist (Massachusetts Cultural Council), 2001; Alexander von Humboldt Prize, 2002. Honorary degrees from Southeastern Massachusetts University, 1989, Westfield State College, 1989.


Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1970.

Early Cells, Science Books International (Boston, MA), 1981.

(With K. V. Schwartz) Phyla of the Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Kinds of Life on Earth, W. H. Freeman (San Francisco, CA), 1981.

Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, W. H. Freeman (San Francisco, CA), 1981, 2nd edition, 1993.

Early Life, Science Books International (Boston, MA), 1982.

Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth, W.H. Freeman (New York, NY), 1982, 3rd edition, 1998.

Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1986.

(With son, Dorion Sagan) Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1986, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.

(With Dorion Sagan) The Microcosmos Coloring Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Boston, MA), 1988.

(With Dorion Sagan) Garden of Microbial Delights: A Practical Guide to the Subvisible World, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Boston, MA), 1988.

Biospheres from Earth to Space, Enslow (Hillside, NJ), 1989.

(With Dorion Sagan) Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Diversity of Life: The Five Kingdoms, Enslow (Hillside, NJ), 1992.

The Illustrated Five Kingdoms: A Guide to Diversity of Life on Earth, HarperCollins College (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Dorion Sagan) What Is Life?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Gaia to Microcosm, Kendall Hunt (Dubuque, IA), 1996.

(With Dorion Sagan) Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis, and Evolution, Copernicus (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Dorion Sagan) What Is Sex?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Diversity of Life: The Illustrated Guide to the Five Kingdoms, Jones & Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1999.

(With Dorion Sagan) Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Michael F. Dolan) Early Life: Evolution on the Precambrian Earth, Jones & Bartlett (Boston, MA), 2002.


Origins of Life, Volume I, Gordon & Breach (Newark, NJ), 1970, Volume II: Cosmic Evolution, Abundance, and Distribution of Biologically Important Elements, Gordon & Breach (Newark, NJ), 1971, Volume III: Planetary Astronomy, Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1973, Volume IV: Chemistry and Radioastronomy, Springer Verlag (New York, NY), 1973.

(With C. Ponnamperuma) Limits to Life, Reidel (Boston, MA), 1980.

(With Mitchell B. Rambler and Rene Fester) Global Ecology: Towards a Science of the Biosphere, Academic Press (Orlando, FL), 1989.

(With others) Handbook of Protoctista, Jones & Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1990.

(With Rene Fester) Symbiosis As a Source of Evolutionary Innovation, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

(With Lorraine Olendzenski) Environmental Evolution: Effects of the Origin and Evolution of Life on Planet Earth, MIT Press, 1992, 2nd edition (with Clifford Matthews and Aaron Haselton), 2000.

(With Mark McMenmin) Concepts of Symbiogenesis, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1992.

(With Heather I. McKhann and Lorraine Olendzenski) Illustrated Glossary of Protoctista, Jones & Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1993.

Also author of science booklets for children. Contributor of more than eighty articles and reviews to scientific journals. Editor of Origins of Life, Journal of Molecular Evolution, and Bio Systems.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A work of fiction, Luminous Fish.

SIDELIGHTS: Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist, has gained a reputation for her work in many different facets of science. She has put forth many theories during her career as a researcher, some of which were rejected at first, only to be accepted at a much later time, when science caught up with her conclusions. As a teacher, she has not only gained the honorary title of distinguished university professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, but has helped to develop teaching materials for students from middle school through college. In 1981, she was honored with a NASA public service award for her involvement with their program to develop research strategies; and in 2000, President Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Science. In reference to her published works, which are numerous, she has gained recognition for her original concepts on the topics of cell biology and evolution.

Margulis was born on March 5, 1938, in Chicago, IL, and by the time she was ready to enter college, college was not quite ready for her. At the age of nineteen, she graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in liberal arts because that was the only option open to her as a woman, despite her keen interest and abilities in science. It was also at the university that she met the famed astronomer, Carl Sagan, whom she would later marry upon obtaining her degree. After gaining their graduate degrees, the young couple moved to San Francisco. By the time that Margulis completed her doctorate, in 1965, she had mothered two sons and divorced Sagan. With her college education completed, Margulis moved to Massachusetts and began her long career as a university instructor and eventually as a professor. She married Thomas Margulis, a crystallographer, in 1967.

Margulis's main interest in science was the location of genes in the cell, which she believed, despite much criticism that she received from her colleagues, resided outside of the nucleus. Two of her earliest books, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells and Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, were written to more clearly explain her theory. Upon publication of the first, she lost credibility and found it difficult to obtain grants to help support further study. However, ten years later, when she wrote the second book, her theory found more welcoming responses.

Her next major project was to offer a new system for classifying living things. Toward this goal, she wrote a series of books: Phyla of the Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Kinds of Life on Earth, Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth, and Diversity of Life: The Five Kingdoms. Margulis based her new system on her studies in microbiology and named her classifications: cells without nuclei, cells with nuclei, funguses, plants, and animals. In the Quarterly Review of Biology, Francisco J. Ayala referred to Five Kingdoms as "fun to read," a conclusion that surprised Ayala. He added, "the prose is muscular but gracious, packed with useful information, instructive gee-whiz anecdotes, and learned references." Margulis's 1992 publication on the subject was written so children could better understand her theories.

Another controversial topic that has inspired Margulis is based on James E. Lovelock's concept referred to as the Gaia Theory, which proposes that all life (from animals to the Earth itself) are part of an allencompassing symbiosis, or as various elements of one organism. Margulis's books on this topic include Gaia to Microcosm, and Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis, and Evolution.

Margulis has written several books with her son, Dorion Sagan. One of them, Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality, like many of Margulis's books, has been met with some harsh criticism. In their study, Margulis and Sagan attempt to plot out the evolution of sexuality, which Paul S. Boyer, writing for BioScience, found to be riddled with "unbridled speculation." In contrast, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book to be an "eloquent, stimulating exploration."

Margulis and her son also wrote What Is Life?, a study of life via the intricate study of a cell. Each cell contains hints of its evolutionary history and environmental influences, or as Gilbert Taylor, for Booklist, stated, each cell offers "a window to the past." Beginning with the most basic form of life, the two authors then move up the evolutionary ladder, explaining each complication along the way.

In 2002, the mother-and-son team published a new book, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species. In this study, the authors offer their theory for the source of inherited variation that underlies the development of a new species. Whereas the theory of random mutation has long been held as the basic cause for the birth of a new species, Margulis and Sagan believe that it is the acquisition of new genomes by symbiotic merger that is the real stimulus.

Margulis told CA: "Since my major social goal (the eradication of poverty and ignorance by population control and education) is hopeless, I spend my time deducing the early evolutionary history of life on earth."



BioScience, September, 1992, Paul S. Boyer, review of Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality, pp. 633-634.

Booklist, September 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of What Is Life?, p. 23; October 15, 1998, Gilbert Taylor, review of Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution, p. 382; June 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species, p. 1655.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of Acquiring Genomes, p. 718.

Nature, July 18, 2002, Axel Meyer, review of Acquiring Genomes, p. 275.

Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1991, review of Mystery Dance, p. 50; August 28, 1995, review of What Is Life?, p. 99; October 5, 1998, review of Symbiotic Planet, p. 67.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March 2001, Francisco J. Ayala, review of Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth, p. 63.

Science News, October 26, 2002, review of Acquiring Genomes, p. 271.

Tribune Books, October 23, 1988.*

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Margulis, Lynn 1938-

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