James Lovelock

Article

August 14, 2022

James Ephraim Lovelock (26 July 1919, Letchworth, England – 26 July 2022 Dorset, England) was an English independent scientist, environmentalist and futurologist. He is most famous as the author of the Gaia theory, which posits that the Earth functions as a self-regulating superorganism.Lovelock received his doctorate in medicine and began his career conducting cryopreservation experiments on rodents, including successfully thawing frozen specimens. His methods influenced the theories of cryonics (human cryopreservation). He invented the electron capture detector and with its help was the first to detect the widespread presence of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. He proposed the Gaia theory while designing scientific instruments for NASA. In the first decade of the 21st century, he proposed a method of geoengineering where seaweed was supposed to consume carbon dioxide and reduce its concentration. He was an outspoken member of the Environmentalists for Nuclear Power, arguing that fossil fuel interests were behind opposition to nuclear power, citing the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on the environment and warning of global warming due to the greenhouse effect. Since the late 1970s, he has authored several environmental books based on the Gaia hypothesis.

Life

Lovelock was born in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, England. He first received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Manchester (1941), in 1948 he received a Ph.D. in Medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and in 1959 a D.Sc. in biophysics. In 1961, he participated in NASA's Mars research program (Viking 1 and Viking 2 probes - he worked on the development of some instruments). It was the comparison between the conditions on Mars and on Earth that led him to formulate first the hypothesis, later the Gaia theory. He elaborated this theory mainly in the 1970s, published a number of publications about it later. The Gaia theory sees planet Earth and life on it as one self-regulating superorganism. This theory became a source of inspiration for the New Age movement and a number of environmental organizations. However, it was often used in a way and to an extent that was not originally intended by him. Lovelock understood the interaction between the Earth and living nature as a self-regulating mechanism, but he never thought that all life on Earth together formed a single being (and certainly not with its own consciousness). Lovelock is among scientists who have long warned about global warming; compared to other scientists, he is quite pessimistic. He believes that a system of (positive) feedbacks will cause a massive acceleration of global warming that may kill billions of people by the end of the 21st century. According to Lovelock, one of the possibilities to slow down this warming is the massive expansion of nuclear energy. He caused a media sensation with his article in favor of nuclear energy back in 2004 (however, he actually spoke for it earlier). Together with Chris Replay, he also proposed another, unconventional way to combat global warming: a system of pipes would pump "nutritious" water from the lower layers of the ocean to the higher ones, which could stimulate the absorption of carbon by marine organisms. However, this proposal was not well received. Lovelock is also the inventor of a number of devices and technical improvements, for example he invented the electron capture detector. He died on his 103rd birthday after complications from a fall.

List of publications in Czech

Gaia: a living planet, translated by Anton Markoš, Prague: Mladá fronta and Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, 1994 Gaia – A New View of Life on Earth, Prešov : Abies, 1993, ISBN 80-88699-03-7 Gaia Strikes Back: Why Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity, translated