compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
from astronomy to zoology. In his later years he became an eminent proponent of nuclear power as a means to help solve global climate change and a pessimist about humankind’s capacity to survive a rapidly warming planet.
One was his invention of the Electron Capture Detector, an inexpensive, portable, exquisitely sensitive device used to help measure the spread of toxic man-made compounds in the environment. The device provided the scientific foundations of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” a catalyst of the environmental movement.
As an expert on the chemical composition of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, Dr. Lovelock wondered why Earth’s atmosphere was so stable. He theorized that something must be regulating heat, oxygen, nitrogen and other components.
“Life at the surface must be doing the regulation,” he later wrote. He presented the theory in 1967 at a meeting of the American Astronautical Society in Lansing, Mich., and in 1968 at a scientific gathering at Princeton University. That summer, the novelist William Golding, a friend, suggested the name Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the Earth. Mr. Golding, the author of “Lord of the Flies” and other books, lived near Mr. Lovelock in southwest England.
A few scientists greeted the hypothesis as a thoughtful way to explain how living systems influenced the planet. Many others, however, called it New Age pablum. The hypothesis might never have gained credibility and moved to the scientific mainstream without the contributions of Lynn Margulis, an eminent American microbiologist, who sadly died at the age of 73 in 2011. In the early 1970s and in the decades afterward, she collaborated with Dr. Lovelock on specific research to support the notion. Since then a number of scientific meetings about the Gaia theory have been held, including one at George Mason University in 2006, and hundreds of papers on aspects of it have been published. Mr. Lovelock’s theory of a self-regulating Earth has been viewed as central to understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.
Add a Comment