In 1972, when James Lovelock first proposed the Gaia hypothesis--the idea that the Earth is a living organism that maintains conditions suitable for life--he was ridiculed by the scientific establishment. Today Lovelock's revolutionary insight, though still extremely controversial, is recognized as one of the most creative, provocative, and captivating scientific ideas of our time. James Lovelock tells for the first time the whole story of this maverick scientist's life and how it served as a unique preparation for the idea of Gaia.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with Lovelock himself and unprecedented access to his private papers, John and Mary Gribbin paint an intimate and fascinating portrait of a restless, uniquely gifted freethinker. In a lifetime spanning almost a century, Lovelock has followed a career path that led him from chemistry, to medicine, to engineering, to space science. He worked for the British secret service and contributed to the success of the D-Day landings in World War II. He was a medical experimenter and an accomplished inventor. And he was working with NASA on methods for finding possible life on Mars when he struck upon the idea of Gaia, conceiving of the Earth as a vast, living, self-regulating system.
Deftly framed within the context of today's mounting global-warming crisis, James Lovelock traces the intertwining trajectories of Lovelock's life and the famous idea it brought forth, which continues to provoke passionate debate about the nature and future of life on our planet.
"As we try to assess Lovelock's highly individualistic work and decide whether his message is worth listening to, there is not better guide than John and Mary Gribbin's James Lovelock: In Search of Gaia. Essentially a dual biography, it deftly recounts in alternating chapters the development of climate change theory and the life of Lovelock himself."--Tim Flannery, New York Review of Books
"This masterful but accessible take on the life and work of James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia concept, is the work of seasoned science writers, married duo John and Mary Gribbin. Beginning with a history of Earth Systems Science, the Gribbins go on to chart the youth, education, rebellion and independent thinking of the man who would give birth to a new field of science. . . . The Gribbins provide an excellent breakdown of his work, showing his concepts in action. With complete access to Lovelock and his papers, the Gribbins avoid a laudatory treatise with a careful study of the scientist's mind and the evolution of a breakthrough."--PublishersWeekly.com
"John and Mary Gribbin lead us on an exploration of how Lovelock came to his perspective of Earth. . . . They offer valuable insights not only into how Lovelock came up with the idea for Gaia but more generally how his mind works and where the ideas for his scores of inventions come from."--Lee R. Kump, Science
"[A] new and highly readable biography . . . fascinating for what it reveals of the man himself."--Financial Times
"[A]bsorbing."--Sunday Times (London)
"In their fascinating new biography, James Lovelock: In Search of Gaia, the science writers John and Mary Gribbin introduce us to a man who endorses this metaphor with much enthusiasm."--Michael Ruse, Chronicle of Higher Education
Table of Contents:
Citation for the Wollaston Medal ix
ONE The Greenhouse before Gaia 1
TWO A Child of His Time 20
THREE Gaia before Gaia 48
FOUR A Medical Man 69
FIVE Inventing the Future 93
SIX Green Revolutions 113
SEVEN The Revelation 137
EIGHT What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Strong 163
NINE New Beginnings 192
TEN Coping with Catastrophe 211
CODA Making an Invention 248
Sources and Further Reading 251
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