James Lovelock, who saw Gaia Earth theory alive, died at 103

James Lovelock, the dissident British ecologist whose work was essential to understanding man-made pollutants and their impact on climate, and who captured the science world’s imagination with his Gaia theory, which depicts the Earth as a living organism, died Tuesday, the 103rd birthday. His birth, at his home in Dorset, southwest England.

His family confirmed the death in the current situation On Twitter, saying that until six months ago he “was still able to walk along the coast near his home in Dorset and take part in interviews, but his health deteriorated after a bad fall earlier this year”.

The breadth of Dr. Lovelock’s knowledge extended from astronomy to zoology. In his later years he became a prominent proponent of nuclear power as a way to help solve global climate change and a pessimist about humanity’s ability to survive on a rapidly warming planet.

But his worldwide fame rested on three major contributions he developed during a particularly prolific decade of scientific exploration and curiosity stretching from the late 1950s through the latter half of the 1960s.

One of them was his invention of the electron detector, an inexpensive, portable and highly sensitive device used to help measure the diffusion of toxic man-made compounds into the environment. The device provided the scientific underpinnings for Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” a catalyst for the environmental movement.

The reagent also helped provide the basis for regulations in the United States and other countries that ban harmful chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, dramatically reducing the use of hundreds of other compounds as well as public exposure to them.

Later, he found that CFCs—the compounds that power aerosol cans and are used to cool refrigerators and air conditioners—were present in measurable concentrations in the atmosphere that led to the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer. (CFCs are now banned in most countries under a 1987 international agreement).

But Dr. Lovelock may be most widely known for his Gaia theory — that the Earth functions, as he puts it, as a “living organism” capable of “regulating its temperature and chemistry in a comfortable stable state.”

The seeds for the idea were planted in 1965, when he was a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-appointed space exploration team stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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 assumed that something must regulate heat, oxygen, nitrogen, and other components.

He later wrote: “Life on the surface has to do with regulation.”

He presented the theory in 1967 at a meeting of the American Astronautical Society in Lansing, Michigan, and in 1968 at a scientific gathering at Princeton University.

That summer, novelist William Golding, one of his friends, suggested the name Gaia after the Greek goddess of the earth. Mr. Golding, author of “Lord of the Flies” and other books, lived near Mr. Lovelock in southwest England.

Few scientists have welcomed the hypothesis as a well-studied way to explain how living systems affect the planet. However, many others called it the New Age pablum.

The hypothesis may not have gained credibility and moved into the scientific mainstream without contributions Lynn MarguliesA prominent American microbiologist. In the early 1970s and in the decades that followed, I collaborated with Dr. Lovelock on specific research to support the idea.

Since then, a number of scientific meetings have been held on the Gaia theory, including one at George Mason University in 2006, and hundreds of papers have been published on aspects of it. Mr. Lovelock’s theory of a self-organizing Earth is seen as central to understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.

His electron capture detector was created in 1957, when he was a scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, North London. It was announced in 1958 in the journal Chromotography.

When combined with a gas chromatograph, which separates chemical mixtures, the detector was able to measure exact concentrations of chlorine-based compounds in the air. It heralded a new era of scientific understanding about the spread of compounds and helped scientists determine the presence of minute levels of toxic chemicals in soil, food, water, human and animal tissues, and the atmosphere.

In 1969, Dr. Lovelock used his electron capture device to find that man-made pollutants were the cause of smog. He also discovered that the family of man-made persistent compounds known as CFCs were measurably present even in the clean air over the Atlantic Ocean. He confirmed the global spread of CFCs during an expedition to the South Pole in the early 1970s, and in 1973 he published a research paper on his findings in the journal Nature.

Proud of Dr. Lovelock was independent of universities, governments, and corporations, though he made his living from all of them. He was pleased with his frankness, frankness, willful provocation, and apathy. And, perhaps not coincidentally, he has been less successful in leveraging his work for financial gain and prestige in the scientific community. The electron capture detector, arguably one of the most important analytical tools developed during the 20th century, was redesigned and marketed by the Hewlett-Packard Company without any ownership or licensing agreement with Dr. Lovelock.

Although Dr. Lovelock has identified the presence of CFCs in the atmosphere, he also concluded that at concentrations in parts per billion, they do not pose “any potential danger” to the planet. He later described this conclusion as an “unwarranted fatal error.”

A year after his paper in Nature, Mario Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and F. published in 1995, they and Dr. Paul Crutzen, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, were awarded a prize Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in alerting the world to the thinning of the ozone layer.

“He had a great mind and the will to be independent,” said Bill McKibbin, author of Nature’s End and researcher in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. “He played a reliably important role in saving the Earth by helping to discover that the ozone layer was disappearing. Gaia’s theory is his most interesting contribution. With global warming emerging as the biggest issue of our time, Gaia’s theory has helped us understand that small changes can transform a system as large as the Earth’s atmosphere.”

James Ephraim Lovelock was born on July 26, 1919 at his maternal grandmother’s home in Letchworth Garden City, about 30 miles north of London. His parents, Tom and Neil Lovelock, were shopkeepers in Brixton Hill, south London. James lived with his grandparents in his freshman year but joined his parents in Brixton Hill after his grandfather’s death in 1925.

In London he was a poorly performing student but an avid reader of Jules Verne and texts of science and history that he had borrowed from the local library.

Dr. Lovelock often attributed his assertive independence to his mother, an amateur actress, secretary, and entrepreneur who he considered an early advocate of women’s rights. His interest in the natural world came from his father, an outdoorsy man who took his son on long walks in the countryside and taught him the common names of plants, animals, and insects.

In 1939, James entered the University of Manchester, attaining conscientious objector status, which enabled him to avoid military service at the start of World War II, and graduated in 1941. He was soon appointed as a junior scientist at the Medical Research Council, an agency government where he majored in hygiene Transmission of infectious agents.

Among the young people who also joined the research institute was Helen Hyslop, a receptionist. The two married on December 23, 1942, and Christine, the first of their four children, was born in 1944. Later on came another girl, Jane, and two boys, Andrew and John. In 1949, Dr. Lovelock received his Ph.D. in Medicine from the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Helen Lovelock, who had MS, died in 1989. He later married American Sandra Orchard. He told the British magazine that they met when I asked him to speak at a conference new country state in 2019.

Among the survivors of Dr. Lovelock his wife; his daughters Kristen Lovelock and Jane Flynn; His two sons, Andrew and John. and grandchildren.

Dr. Lovelock is the author of “Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth” (1979), among other books. Another, “The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning” (2009), argued that the Earth was accelerating into a permanently hot state more quickly than scientists thought. His autobiography, Habitat of Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist, was published in 2000.

Among his many awards, two have been the most prestigious in the environmental community: the Amsterdam Prize for the Environment, awarded by the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Blue Planet Prize, awarded in 1997 and widely regarded as the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Lovelock caused a sensation in 2004 when he pronounced Nuclear energy is the only realistic alternative Fossil fuels that have the potential to meet humanity’s large-scale energy needs while reducing greenhouse emissions.

In his later years, he expressed a pessimistic view of global climate change and human capacity to prevent an environmental catastrophe that would kill billions of people.

“The reason is we won’t find enough food, unless we make it,” he told New Scientist magazine in 2009. Because of this, executions during this century will be huge, up to 90 percent. The number of people left at the end of the century will likely be a billion or less. It’s happened before. Between ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2,000 people left. It’s happening again.”