Lynn Margulis, prominent evolutionary biologist, dies at 73

Lynn Margulis, a prominent figure in the study of evolutionary biology, died this past Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, The New York Times reports. She was 73. Her son, Dorion Sagan, told The New York Times that Margulis’ death followed five days after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.

Born in 1938 in Chicago, Margulis enrolled in the University of Chicago at the age of 14. At 19, she married famous astronomer Carl Sagan, who she had three sons with, Dorion Sagan, Jeremy Sagan, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, and one daughter, Jennifer Margulis.

Margulis was best known for challenging neo-Darwinist beliefs that random mutation was the primary evolution mechanism. She argued that symbiosis was a much more important mechanism, suggesting that cells work together, merge and reproduce.

She showed that through the process of symbiogenesis, complex cells could be born from the merger and reproduction of less complicated cells such as bacteria. Her work underscored the idea that the evolutionary process was evident in microorganisms far before it would be visible at the level of species, NYT reports.

“Evolutionists have been preoccupied with the history of animal life in the last 500 million years,” she wrote, according to The New York Times. “But we now know that life itself evolved much earlier than that. The fossil record begins nearly 4,000 million years ago! Until the 1960s, scientists ignored fossil evidence for the evolution of life, because it was uninterpretable.”

Source: The New York Times