Lovelock, James 1919–

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Lovelock, James 1919–

(J.E. Lovelock, James Ephraim Lovelock)


Born July 26, 1919, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England; son of Tom Arthur (an art dealer) and Nellie Ann Elizabeth (a local government official) Lovelock; married Helen Mary Hyslop (a company treasurer; deceased), December 23, 1942; married second wife, Sandy; children (first marriage): Christine Lovelock Curthoys, Jane Lovelock Flynn, Andrew, John. Education: Attended Birkbeck College, London, 1938-39; Manchester University, B.Sc., 1941; University of London, Ph.D., 1949, D.Sc., 1959. Politics: Neutral. Religion: Christian.


Home—Launceston, Cornwall, England.


National Institute for Medical Research, London, England, staff scientist, 1941-61; Baylor University, College of Medicine, Houston, TX, professor of chemistry, 1961-64; independent scientist, beginning 1964. Rockefeller fellow at Harvard University, 1954-55, and Yale University, 1958-59; visiting professor of engineering and cybernetics at University of Reading, beginning 1967; honorary visiting fellow at Green College, University of Oxford, 1994—. Consultant to Jet Propulsion Laboratory of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Pasadena, CA, 1961-64. Inventor.


American Chemical Society, Royal Society (fellow), Marine Biology Association (council member, 1982-85; president, 1986—), Sigma Xi.


Award from CIBA Foundation, 1955, for research in aging; certificates of recognition from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 1972; named fellow of the Royal Society, 1974; TSWETT Medals from chromatography societies in United States and U.S.S.R.; award from American Chemical Society, 1980; honorary D.Sc. from University of East Anglia, 1982; Stephen Dal Nogare Award, 1985; Silver Medal and Prize, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, 1986; Norbert Gerbier Prize, World Meteorological Organization, 1988; Amsterdam Prize for the Environment, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1990; Rosenstiel Award in Oceanographic Science, 1990; named Commander of the British Order, 1990; Nonino Prize, 1996; Volvo Prize for the Environment, 1996; Blue Planet Prize, 1997; Goi Peace Prize, 2000; Discovery Lifetime Award, Royal Geographic Society, 2001; named Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II, 2003; honorary doctorates from Exeter University, 1988, Plymouth Polytechnic, 1988, Stockholm University, 1993, University of Edinburgh, 1996, University of Kent, 1996, University of East London, 1996, and University of Colorado, 1997.


(With Michael Allaby) The Greening of Mars (science fiction novel), St. Martin's, 1984.


(Under name J.E. Lovelock) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979.

(With Michael Allaby) The Great Extinction, the Solution to One of the Great Mysteries of Science: The Disappearance of the Dinosaurs, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1983.

The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth, Norton (New York, NY), 1988.

Healing Gaia: Practical Medicine for the Planet, Harmony (New York, NY), 1991.

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist (autobiography), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2006, published as The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back—and How We Can Still Save Humanity, Allen Lane (London, England), 2006.

Contributor of chapters on specialized science topics to approximately ten books. Also contributor of more than two hundred papers and reviews to scientific journals. Member of editorial board of journals Atmospheric Environment and Tellus.


James Lovelock is an independent scientist who believes, as he stated in a New Scientist article, that "the solitary practice of science … is not only pleasant but also productive" and that "such an environment may even be better suited for some scientists than is the noisy bustle and rough house of a university department or institution where it is often impossible to get any work done." He found institutional science stifling and decided to work alone instead, "like the artist or novelist. I wanted to be able to do scientific creative work without any constraints from employers or customers who … tend to interfere." His approach has sometimes been regarded by the scientific community as suspect or even irresponsible, yet it has yielded numerous inventions, discoveries, and new ways of looking at the world. Critics praise his nonfiction writings and herald him, as astronomer Carl Sagan did in the New York Times Book Review, as an "extraordinary" scientist.

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth is Lovelock's first book, which presents the hypothesis that "conditions on Earth are made congenial for life by the presence of life itself," related W.H. McCrea in the Times Literary Supplement. According to Lovelock, he began to explore the idea when asked to devise a new method of detecting life on other planets. His method was to seek instabilities in planetary atmospheres, which he then reversed to determine that "the Earth's atmosphere was so far from any conceivable chemical equilibrium state that not only must life be present but also that it interacts so closely with the atmosphere that the atmosphere itself might be considered as an extension of life…. [The] Earth can be regarded as a single living system which includes the biosphere, the atmosphere, the oceans and the soil." McCrea deemed Gaia "a remarkable book."

Lovelock next wrote, with Michael Allaby, The Great Extinction, the Solution to One of the Great Mysteries of Science: The Disappearance of the Dinosaurs. This work grew out of the suggestion by some scientists that an asteroid approximately ten kilometers in diameter may have struck the earth and caused dinosaurs and other creatures to become extinct. Lovelock and Allaby's study, asserted McCrea, gives the idea "its first comprehensive, systematic critical examination." The authors address a variety of questions raised by the theory in a "closely reasoned discussion, which requires and deserves attentive reading," described McCrea, who added, "It is an exhilarating experience." The study argues that such a collision could occur again and suggests ways to avert the danger. Concluded McCrea: "This is an important book."

With The Greening of Mars Lovelock and Allaby ventured into fiction, postulating a twenty-third-century Mars that has been altered by man to support life. In the New York Times Book Review, Carl Sagan acknowledged that such "terraforming" is possible, but he deemed Lovelock's scenario unworkable. The critic expressed disappointment that "the book offers no discussion of the ethical issues," and he found "serious errors and oversights" in the work and cited numerous examples. Recognizing Lovelock's distinction as an inventor and researcher, Sagan complimented him on the "verve and vision" of The Greening of Mars and suggested that "the best passages recall H.G. Wells," the noted science fiction author. Observed Sagan, "Despite [its] shortcomings, ‘The Greening of Mars’ does prefigure an attainable human future in which we have come to our senses, put aside the instruments of global apocalypse and employed our astonishing technological ability in benign causes, to do things undreamed of."

Shortly after entering his eighties, Lovelock set down his own life story in Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist. Assessing the book for New Statesman, Mary Midgley praised Lovelock's life and achievements, his original thought, and his willingness to speak plainly. She also approved of his skill in setting his memories down on paper. "Lovelock writes as well as ever, and shows little sign of slowing down," Midgely stated. "It is to be hoped that he will stay with us as long as we need him."

Lovelock had not finished stirring up controversy. He was well into his eighties when he published The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. In it, he wrote in stark terms of what he foresees for Earth during the twenty-first century. Lovelock believes that global warming processes, fueled by human activity and its effects on the atmosphere, have already reached a point of no return. Widespread and drastic climate change is inevitable, in his view, and will lead to an ice-free Arctic and an uninhabitably hot and dry equatorial zone. Lovelock believes that a huge percentage of mankind will die over the course of the next century of climate change, but that a significant percentage will survive. His book puts forth ideas on what to do now to cope with the imminent and extreme climate changes.

"Lovelock's unique authority and original perspective" give his book "more weight than others focusing on environmental change," stated a reviewer in African Business. That writer also called Lovelock's predictions and recommendations "brilliantly argued."



African Business, May 1, 2006, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back—and How We Can Still Save Humanity, p. 65.

Audubon, March 1, 2007, Judie Leibach, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, p. 130.

Booklist, August 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, p. 21.

Bookseller, February 3, 2006, "Doomed or Not? Lovelock's Gaia Theory Stimulates Debate," p. 43.

Building Design, March 2, 2007, "Roll on Friday," p. 16.

Bulletin with Newsweek, August 1, 2006, "Future Degeneration," p. 68.

Geographical, September 1, 2006, "Pushing the Planet to Its Limits," p. 88.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 17, 1985, David Graber, review of The Greening of Mars, p. 9.

New American, June 14, 2004, "‘Gaia Guru’ Flips, Embraces Nuclear Power," p. 7.

New Scientist, September 6, 1979, James Lovelock, "The Independent Practice of Science," pp. 714-717.

New Statesman, October 2, 2000, Mary Midgley, "Earth Song," p. 56; February 27, 2006, Mark Lynas, "Global Warning," p. 53.

New York Times Book Review, January 6, 1985, review of The Greening of Mars, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, p. 43.

Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 1983, W.H. McCrea, review of Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth.

Weekly Standard, January 15, 2007, "Going Nuclear; One Cure for Global Climate Change May Surprise You."


Adelaide Festival of Ideas Web site, (July 5, 2007), biographical information about James Lovelock.

Asahi Glass Foundation Web site, (July 5, 2007), biographical information on James Lovelock.

First Science, (February 2, 2007), Christine Carter, interview with James Lovelock., (April 27, 2007), Fiona Harvey, interview with James Lovelock.

Grist, (May 23, 2007), Kit Stolz, "Gary Snyder: James Lovelock's Arguments for Nuclear Power ‘Demented.’"

Guardian Online, (February 12, 2006), Robin McKie, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back—and How We Can Still Save Humanity.

Independent Online, (January 16, 2006), James Lovelock, "The Earth is about to Catch a Morbid Fever"; (April 5, 2007), Jonathan Sale, interview with James Lovelock.

James Lovelock's Home Page, (July 5, 2007).

Real Climate, (February 13, 2006), review of The Revenge of Gaia., (August 17, 2000), Lawrence E. Joseph, interview with James Lovelock.

Sunday Times Online, (January 29, 2006), Richard Mabey, review of The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back—and How We Can Still Save Humanity; (May 6, 2007), Jonathan Leake, interview with James Lovelock.

Washington Post Online, (September 2, 2006), Michael Powell, interview with James Lovelock.