UPDATE: It’s very strange that, at 7:30 a.m. New York time, the New York Times hasn’t mentioned Margulis’s death. Given her stroke last week, surely they had time to prepare an obituary, and she’s certainly important enough to warrant a substantial one.
UPDATE 2: The New York Times now has an obituary. GCM
I am informed, and this seems reliable, that Lynn Margulis died yesterday of a stroke she suffered last Thursday.
I had my differences with Margulis, for in her latter years she took to making repeated and unfounded attacks on modern evolutionary biology and speciation. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that her work formed one of the most profound contributions in twentieth-century evolutionary biology. I refer in particular to her idea that organelles—especially mitochondria and chloroplasts—descended from ancient bacteria that formed symbiotic relationships with cells that engulfed them. She faced strong doubt, criticism and even derision for this idea, but in the end evidence from DNA and other sources proved her correct.
She wasn’t so correct about evolution in general, or in her views that such symbioses were both ubiquitous and a driving factor in evolution and speciation, but she was right about some important stuff: facts that revolutionized our understanding of the history of life.