Lovelock, James Ephraim 1919 - 2022

English; British

(1919 - 2022) Independent Scientist and Ecologist

James Ephraim Lovelock was born on July 26, 1919 in Letchworth Garden City. He graduated as a chemist from Manchester University in 1941 and in 1948 received a Ph.D. degree in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1959 he received the D.Sc. degree in biophysics from London University. After graduating from Manchester he started employment with the Medical Research Council at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, but five years between 1946 and 1951 were spent at the Common CoId Research Unit at Harvard Hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

In 1954 he was awarded the Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship in Medicine and chose to spend it at Harvard University Medical School in Boston. In 1958 he visited Yale University for a similar period. He resigned from the National Institute in London in 1961 to take up full time employment as Professor of Chemistry at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where he remained until 1964. During his stay in Texas he collaborated with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California on Lunar and Planetary Research. From 1964 he conducted an independent practice in science, although continuing honorary academic associations as a visiting professor, first at the University of Houston and then at the University of Reading in the U.K. From 1982 he was associated with the Marine Biological Association at Plymouth, first as a council member, and from 1986 to 1990 as its president.

Lovelock was the author of approximately 200 scientific papers, distributed almost equally among topics in Medicine, Biology, Instrument Science and Geophysiology. He filed more than 50 patents, mostly for detectors for use in chemical analysis. One of these, the electron capture detector, was important in the development of environmental awareness. It revealed for the first time the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues and other halogen bearing chemicals. This information enabled Rachel Carson to write her book, Silent Spring, often said to have initiated the awareness of environmental disturbance. Later it enabled the discovery of the presence of PCB's in the natural environment. More recently the electron capture detector was responsible for the discovery of the global distribution of nitrous oxide and of the chlorofluorocarbons, both of which are important in the stratospheric chemistry of ozone. Some of his inventions were adopted by NASA in their programme of planetary exploration. He was awarded by NASA three certificates of recognition for these.

He was the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory) and wrote four books on the subject: Gaia: a new look at life on Earth, (Oxford University Press, 1979); The Ages of Gaia, (W. W. Norton, 1988); Gaia: the practical science of planetary medicine, (Gaia Books, 1991), and Homage to Gaia (2000).

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974 and in 1975 received the Tswett Medal for Chromatography. Earlier he received a CIBA Foundation Prize for research in Ageing. In 1980 he received the American Chemical Society's award for Chromatography and in 1986 the Silver Medal and Prize of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. In 1988 he was a recipient of the Norbert Gerbier Prize of the World Meteorological Organization, and in 1990 was awarded the first Amsterdam Prize for the Environment by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1996 he received both the Nonino Prize and the Volvo Environment Prize, and in 1997 Japan's Blue Planet Prize. He has received honorary Doctorates in Science from the University of East Anglia 1982, Exeter University 1988, Plymouth Polytechnic (now Plymouth University) 1988, Stockholm University 1991, University of Edinburgh 1993, University of Kent and the University of East London in 1996, and from the University of Colorado in 1997. He was made a C.B.E. by Her Majesty the Queen in 1990. He was also a Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green College, Oxford University.

James Ephraim Lovelock died on his 103 birthday on 26th July 2022 following complications relating to a fall.