Mario Molina, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego, received the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work with other atmospheric scientists in elucidating the threat posed to the Earth’s ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbon gases, or CFCs. Molina has become increasingly interested in developing ways to mitigate the air quality problems of major cities around the world, and has been conducting a long-term study of atmospheric particulates in Mexico City in hopes of developing ways to mitigate the air pollution there. At his Center for Strategic Research on Energy and the Environment in Mexico City, he and his colleagues “carry out science policy studies related to energy and to the climate change issue aimed at impacting public policies in Mexico and in Latin America.” Molina, who also finds time to advise President Barack Obama and the President of Mexico on environmental and science policy, is a passionate book collector, focusing on art and science.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your collection and your areas of specialty.
A: I have mainly science and art books. For me, books are the sources of unimaginable knowledge. I greatly enjoy reading and learning from them. Whether it´s a science piece, an art or a travel book, I take pleasure in turning each page and learning something new every time.
Q: How long have you been collecting books and what inspired you to start?
A: I have been in contact with books since I was a child, which is when I started reading pirate novels and biographies of famous scientists. My father had a large home library and ever since I have taken pleasure in collecting books. Besides the science books I needed for my studies, I started collecting art books when I travelled to Europe as a young student and visited a great number of museums.
Q: . What do you most enjoy about collecting? Do you find the hunt as gratifying as the acquisition?
A: I enjoy going into a library and searching for a book which I know will help my research and satisfy my scientific curiosity. I also enjoy going to book stores and browsing art books, among many others.
Q: As a scholar of environmental science, has your research influenced your collecting and vice versa? How so?
A: As a student, I had to read many books, some of which left me with deep knowledge and prompted me to continue studying. As time went by and I started to conduct research of my own, I understood that the way to stay connected and up to date with findings being developed all over the world was precisely through books and papers. Yes, as a scholar I do have a great affinity for books.
Q: Tell us about some of your most prized volumes?
A: I wouldn’t consider I have prized volumes, so much as books that have inspired me to study certain areas of science or to travel to certain places. I enjoy my art books which let me admire the works of the great painters; I particularly enjoy Renaissance art.
Q: Do you collect any other items besides books?
A: I collect small handcrafted boxes from different parts of the world.
Q: Do you read books from your collection for pleasure?
A: Yes I do, but unfortunately not as much as I would like to because of the busy work and travel schedule I currently have. At the moment I usually use the little time I have left to read and catch up on current events and scientific developments.