|Birth Day:||July 26, 1919|
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He did not have enough to attend college out of high school, and instead went to work as a photographer.
Lovelock married Helen Hyslop in 1942, and they had four children and lived together until 1989 when Helen died of multiple sclerosis. He fell in love with his second wife, Sandy, at the age of 73. Lovelock believes that "you would find the life of me and my wife Sandy to be an unusually happy one in simple beautiful but unpretentious surroundings."
In 1948, Lovelock received a PhD degree in medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He spent the next two decades working at London's National Institute for Medical Research. In the United States, he has conducted research at Yale, Baylor College of Medicine, and Harvard University.
In early 1961, Lovelock was engaged by NASA to develop sensitive instruments for the analysis of extraterrestrial atmospheres and planetary surfaces. The Viking program, which visited Mars in the late 1970s, was motivated in part to determine whether Mars supported life, and many of the sensors and experiments that were ultimately deployed aimed to resolve this issue. During work on a precursor of this program, Lovelock became interested in the composition of the Martian atmosphere, reasoning that many life forms on Mars would be obliged to make use of it (and, thus, alter it). However, the atmosphere was found to be in a stable condition close to its chemical equilibrium, with very little oxygen, methane, or hydrogen, but with an overwhelming abundance of carbon dioxide. To Lovelock, the stark contrast between the Martian atmosphere and chemically dynamic mixture of the Earth's biosphere was strongly indicative of the absence of life on Mars. However, when they were finally launched to Mars, the Viking probes still searched (unsuccessfully) for extant life there. Further experiments to search for life on Mars have been carried out by further space probes, for instance by NASA'S Curiosity Rover which landed in 2012.
After the development of his electron capture detector, in the late 1960s, Lovelock was the first to detect the widespread presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. He found a concentration of 60 parts per trillion of CFC-11 over Ireland and, in a partially self-funded research expedition in 1972, went on to measure the concentration of CFC-11 from the northern hemisphere to the Antarctic aboard the research vessel RRS Shackleton. He found the gas in each of the 50 air samples that he collected but, not realising that the breakdown of CFCs in the stratosphere would release chlorine that posed a threat to the ozone layer, concluded that the level of CFCs constituted "no conceivable hazard". He has since stated that he meant "no conceivable toxic hazard".
Lovelock was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. He served as the president of the Marine Biological Association (MBA) from 1986 to 1990, and has been an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford (formerly Green College, Oxford) since 1994.
However, the experiment did provide the first useful data on the ubiquitous presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. The damage caused to the ozone layer by the photolysis of CFCs was later discovered by Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina. After hearing a lecture on the subject of Lovelock's results, they embarked on research that resulted in the first published paper that suggested a link between stratospheric CFCs and ozone depletion in 1974 (for which Sherwood and Molina later shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Paul Crutzen).
Lovelock was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. His nomination reads:
In response to this Lovelock, together with Andrew Watson, published the computer model Daisyworld in 1983, that postulated a hypothetical planet orbiting a star whose radiant energy is slowly increasing or decreasing. In the non-biological case, the temperature of this planet simply tracks the energy received from the star. However, in the biological case, ecological competition between "daisy" species with different albedo values produces a homeostatic effect on global temperature. When energy received from the star is low, black daisies proliferate since they absorb a greater fraction of the heat, but when energy input is high, white daisies predominate since they reflect excess heat. As the white and black daisies have contrary effects on the planet's overall albedo and temperature, changes in their relative populations stabilise the planet's climate and to keep temperature within an optimal range despite fluctuations in energy from the star. Lovelock argued that Daisyworld, although a parable, illustrates how conventional natural selection operating on individual organisms can still produce planetary-scale homeostasis.
In 1988 he made an extended appearance on the Channel 4 television programme After Dark, alongside Heathcote Williams and Petra Kelly, among others.
Lovelock has become concerned about the threat of global warming from the greenhouse effect. In 2004 he caused a media sensation when he broke with many fellow environmentalists by pronouncing that "only nuclear power can now halt global warming". In his view, nuclear energy is the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfill the large scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse emissions. He is an open member of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy.
In 2005, against the backdrop of renewed UK government interest in nuclear power, Lovelock again publicly announced his support for nuclear energy, stating, "I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy". Although these interventions in the public debate on nuclear power are recent, his views on it are longstanding. In his 1988 book The Ages of Gaia he states:
In Lovelock's 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia, he argues that the lack of respect humans have had for Gaia, through the damage done to rainforests and the reduction in planetary biodiversity, is testing Gaia's capacity to minimize the effects of the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This eliminates the planet's negative feedbacks and increases the likelihood of homeostatic positive feedback potential associated with runaway global warming. Similarly the warming of the oceans is extending the oceanic thermocline layer of tropical oceans into the Arctic and Antarctic waters, preventing the rise of oceanic nutrients into the surface waters and eliminating the algal blooms of phytoplankton on which oceanic food chains depend. As phytoplankton and forests are the main ways in which Gaia draws down greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, taking it out of the atmosphere, the elimination of this environmental buffering will see, according to Lovelock, most of the earth becoming uninhabitable for humans and other life-forms by the middle of this century, with a massive extension of tropical deserts. (In 2012, Lovelock distanced himself from these conclusions, saying he had "gone too far" in describing the consequences of climate change over the next century in this book.)
Writing in the British newspaper The Independent in January 2006, Lovelock argued that, as a result of global warming, "billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable" by the end of the 21st century. He has been quoted in The Guardian that 80% of humans will perish by 2100 AD, and this climate change will last 100,000 years. He further predicted, the average temperature in temperate regions would increase by as much as 8 °C and by up to 5 °C in the tropics, leaving much of the world's land uninhabitable and unsuitable for farming, with northerly migrations and new cities created in the Arctic. He predicted much of Europe will have become uninhabitable having turned to desert and Britain will have become Europe's "life-raft" due to its stable temperature caused by being surrounded by the ocean. He suggested that "we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can."
Lovelock has been awarded a number of prestigious prizes including the Tswett Medal (1975), the American Chemical Society Award in Chromatography (1980), the World Meteorological Organization Norbert Gerbier–MUMM Award (1988), the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences (1990) and the Royal Geographical Society Discovery Lifetime award (2001). In 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal, the Geological Society of London's highest award, whose previous recipients include Charles Darwin. Lovelock was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the study of the Science and Atmosphere in the 1990 New Year Honours and a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) for services to Global Environment Science in the 2003 New Year Honours.
In September 2007, Lovelock and Chris Rapley proposed the construction of ocean pumps to pump water up from below the thermocline to "fertilize algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom". The basic idea was to accelerate the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the ocean by increasing primary production and enhancing the export of organic carbon (as marine snow) to the deep ocean. A scheme similar to that proposed by Lovelock and Rapley is already being independently developed by a commercial company.
In his 2009 book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, he rejects scientific models that disagree with the findings that sea levels are rising and Arctic ice is melting faster than the models predict. He suggests that we may already be beyond the tipping point of terrestrial climate resilience into a permanently hot state. Given these conditions, Lovelock expects human civilization will be hard-pressed to survive. He expects the change to be similar to the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum when atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 450 ppm, and the temperature of the Arctic Ocean was 23 °C.
On 8 May 2012, he appeared on the Radio Four series The Life Scientific, talking to Jim al-Khalili about the Gaia hypothesis. On the programme, he mentioned how his ideas had been received by various people, including Jonathan Porritt. He also mentioned how he had a claim for inventing the microwave oven. He later explained this claim in an interview with The Manchester Magazine. Lovelock said that he did create an instrument during his time studying causes of damage to living cells and tissue, which had, according to him, "almost everything you would expect in an ordinary microwave oven". He invented the instrument for the purpose of heating up frozen hamsters in a way that caused less suffering to the animals, as opposed to the traditional way which involved putting red hot spoons on the animals' chest to heat them up. He believes that at the time, nobody had gone that far and made an embodiment of an actual microwave oven. However, he does not claim to have been the first person to have the idea of using microwaves for cooking.
Statements from 2012 portray Lovelock as continuing his concern over global warming while at the same time criticizing extremism and suggesting alternatives to oil, coal and the green solutions he does not support.
In March 2012, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a new portrait of Lovelock by British artist Michael Gaskell (2011). The collection also has two photographic portraits by Nick Sinclair (1993) and Paul Tozer (1994). The archive of the Royal Society of Arts has a 2009 image taken by Anne-Katrin Purkiss. Lovelock agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar in Devon during 2007, as part of The Environment Triptych (2008) along with heads of Mary Midgley and Richard Mabey. A bronze head is in the collection of the sitter and the terracotta is in the archive of the artist.
In 2019 Lovelock said he thought difficulties in getting nuclear power going again were due to propaganda, that "the coal and oil business fight like mad to tell bad stories about nuclear", and that "the greens played along with it. There’s bound to have been some corruption there – I’m sure that various green movements were paid some sums on the side to help with propaganda". There is nothing in the published interview to suggest that the interviewer sought or Lovelock offered any evidence to support that serious allegation.
James was born to a working class family, which believed strongly in education.
Currently, James Lovelock is 103 years, 7 months and 26 days old. James Lovelock will celebrate 104th birthday on a Wednesday 26th of July 2023. Below we countdown to James Lovelock upcoming birthday.