James Lovelock (1919-2022), a dissident inventor who realized how fragile the Earth is

James Lovelock (1919-2022), a dissident inventor who realized how fragile the Earth is

James Lovelock at age 94 with one of his first inventions.AP . image

On his kitchen table, James Lovelock built a device in 1957 that became a go-to for almost the entire environmental movement. Discover pollutants like ozone-destroying CFCs and pesticides like DDT, which are found everywhere in the air. It symbolizes the scientist and pioneer who died last Tuesday at the age of 103: while tinkering, he created inventions and ideas that radically changed the worldview. For him, it was an exhilarating experience with special results, as he said at the age of 100 against new world: ‘It was a good life.’

Lovelock is best known for the so-called Gaia hypothesis. This is the idea that the Earth itself acts as a kind of living organism. After all, the oxygen we breathe comes from microbes and plants, which at the same time keep temperatures on the planet nice by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Earth maintains itself habitable, as it were, just like an animal maintains metabolism and body temperature.

At the time, the idea was controversial, only because Gaia seemed to float and attracted the spiritual movement of the New Age, which frightened scholars away, Lovelock wrote in his short autobiography. Gaia’s Revenge. However, many researchers have changed their minds, especially in the field of climatology. There, the idea of ​​a complex, self-organizing system in which microbes, plants, animals, and people determine the quality of life on Earth became a starting point.


Since Gaia’s idea is a vision, Lovelock came up with it in a roundabout way. It began when NASA hired him in 1961 to find an answer to the question: Is there life on Mars? Lovelock was first forced to think about the possibility of changing life in the planet’s atmosphere. At least that can be measured from afar, including on Mars.

Then he realized that the Earth is private. He said the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere was “extraordinarily high”. new world. Oxygen tends to react quickly with other molecules and thus disappears. The only reason there is so much of it is because microbes have been pumping it into the air for millions of years. Therefore, such an “irrational” atmosphere is a sign of life, in which gases are constantly circulating.

Lovelock says that, as revealed by NASA’s 1965 mission, Mars has an atmosphere in which nothing happens: It is “in chemical equilibrium.” “I think this is probably why Mars is lifeless. This was not the conclusion that lenders were waiting for.

Earth’s atmosphere continued to amaze Lovelock. As an independent scientist, he then began formulating his theory about Gaia with biologist Lynn Margulis. He got the name Gaia from his friend William Golding, a British writer who Lord of the Flies He wrote and lived nearby.


James Lovelock was born on July 26, 1919 in his ancestral home in Letchworth Garden City, near London. The family was not very wealthy, so he could not go to university until he was 21 years old. He said he fed his independence that in the meantime he was self-taught based on his curiosity in new country state earlier this year. After studying chemistry at the University of Manchester, Lovelock spent ten years in academia. He left this world to continue his work as an independent scientist.

Lovelock regularly surprised fellow opponents and opponents with his pernicious ideas. on me NRC Handelsblad He said he once suggested pumping more greenhouses into the atmosphere to prevent another ice age. “I’m not always right either.” He thought his ‘fatal mistake’ was that he labeled chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from refrigerants as harmless, after he himself first encountered these substances in the Antarctic with his inventions. Lovelock wasn’t convinced until other researchers showed that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer, following his discovery.

Nevertheless, Lovelock has remained steadfast as a supporter of nuclear power. He made this change in 2004, which completely surprised the environmental movement at the time. Produce nuclear waste The Gaia’s Revenge, has not yet been erased and buried. In contrast, the huge mountain of carbon dioxide that humanity pumps into the atmosphere each year is millions of times larger and poses a much greater danger, according to Lovelock. He even suggested burying nuclear waste in his garden – so he could warm his house well in the winter.

Lovelock was never really pessimistic. He always writes that he accompanied doomsday scenarios around the Earth with tepid pragmatism that seemed confusing to others. new country state. He believed that man is resourceful enough to come up with solutions. Why not help cool the Earth with mirrors that reflect sunlight off the Earth, or with machines that create clouds?

Lovelock died at his home in Dorset countryside. Up until six months ago, he was still walking kilometers along the coast, his family reports on Twitter. His health deteriorated due to the fall. He left behind his wife, Sandy Orchard, and four children.

3x James Lovelock

Freeze the hamster and you can bring it back to life laterIt was discovered by James Lovelock in 1952 at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill. The brain in particular can tolerate freezing well, other organs less so.

Viruses spread in droplets and sometimes through hand contactDiscover Lovelock In the same institute. He was one of the first to conduct human experiments to find out.

Air pollution can spread all over the world. Lovelock made that particular observation as an independent scientist. He first caught chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) off the coast of Ireland, and then again over Antarctica.

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