In 2012, the Science Museum acquired the archives of one Britain’s leading scientist, James Lovelock. Born in 1919, he is known for having developed the Gaia theory explained in the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, published in 1979. The Gaia hypothesis began however while he was working at NASA in 1965 and unlike the later book, the first papers did not reach a large audience.
The idea is that Earth is a self-regulating system that maintains favourable conditions for life. It was the first time that it was suggested to consider our planet not in parts but as an organism. Human intervention could therefore disrupt the said regulation and cause a pollution that would spiral out of control.
Lovelock’s major invention is the Electron Capture Detector (ECD) used to detect chemicals such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and many pesticides. Aboard the Schackelton with his equipment, Lovelock was able to show that CFCs were dispersed across the globe. Because of the era and the name of the theory, Lovelock had for some time the reputation of a hippie scientist. With global warming having become a fundamental issue, the legacy of Gaia has become less controversial and continues to unfold.
Unlocking Lovelock, Science Museum, until April 9th, 2015
Categories: Random Walks