Lynn Margulis (1938–2011)

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Science  20 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6066, pp. 302
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218027

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Science progresses mainly through experimentation, but to become useful, experimental results have to be scrutinized, interpreted, and placed on a proper intellectual scaffold. These two activities are not always carried out evenly by the same person. Some scientists become known for their impressive experiments, others for innovative theoretical syntheses. Lynn Margulis, who died on 22 November 2011 at the age of 73, was a striking example of the latter group. She is responsible for the transformative idea that eukaryotic cells evolved by the acquisition and exploitation of other, smaller cells, a process known as endosymbiosis. Accordingly, essential components of eukaryotic cells—the organelles mitochondria and, in photosynthetic cells, plastids—are derived from bacteria that some ancestral cell had ingested. These events are thought to have taken place early in the history of life on Earth.