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Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist (Independent Voices) [Paperback]

James Lovelock
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2014 Independent Voices
James Lovelock tells the fascinating story of his life as an independent scientist and how he came to develop his inventions and theories. He has filed more than 50 patents, including one for the electron capture detector that was important in the development of environmental awareness, in connection with both the detection of pesticide residues in the environment and the discovery of the global distribution of CFCs. He also tells us about the work he has done for organizations such as NASA, the Ministry of Defence, The Marine Biological Association, and many companies such as Shell and Hewlett Packard. From his childhood days in south London to a job as a lab assistant - his first crucial steps to becoming a scientist, from chemistry at Manchester University to the Medical Research Council during World War II, his voyage to the Arctic, taking his family to America, returning to England and fighting to save the ozone layer, his quest for gaia, then into the nineties and a stream of awards, including a CBE from the Queen. James Lovelock has led a fulfilling life and has been widely recognized by the international scientific community.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd (1 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285642553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285642553
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Lovelock is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). He has written four books on the subject: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, The Ages of Gaia and Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, as well as an autobiography, Homage to Gaia. His most recent was The Revenge of Gaia (Allen Lane, 2006). In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, and in September 2005 Prospect magazine named him as one of the world's top 100 global public intellectuals. In April 2006 he was awarded the Edinburgh Medal at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Product Description

Amazon Review

James Lovelock is the British scientist who gave birth to the concept of Gaia--the idea that "...the Earth regulates its climate and composition..." that neither "...we, or any living thing, [can] evolve without changing the state of the Earth". But as we find in Homage to Gaia: the Life of an Independent Scientist, there is much more to James Lovelock. His life has been more like that of the pioneer natural philosophers of the Renaissance who studied "science" before the word "scientist" was invented in the 19th century. As we discover in this fascinating autobiography, Lovelock learned the nuts and bolts of his science in a very old-fashioned way by what he calls "the long apprenticeship". On leaving school he had, like many bright but poor youths in Britain until the 1950s, to start work as an apprentice chemical analyst in London and study in the evenings at Birkbeck College. For any would-be scientist Lovelock's early career is an object lesson in application, persistence and inspiration. He managed to work his way into a remarkable variety of scientific research posts in chemistry, medicine and space science in both Britain and America. Along the way he invented the electron capture detector, which revolutionised the study of environmental chemistry and discovered that CFCs are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere and damaging the ozone layer. And then there is Gaia, "...part of science...not an alternative to religion but a complement", according to Lovelock. Much of Lovelock's work has been carried out independently of universities, research institutes or business organisations, financed by the success of his inventions. His story of the struggle to make ends meet, to develop new ideas and to try to come to terms with what it means to be a responsible "child" of Earth, Gaia is essential if at times uncomfortable reading for anyone interested in the interaction between science and the environment. Be prepared to have your preconceptions of Lovelock shaken up. --Douglas Palmer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"There is much more than science in this book....This is ultimately an uplifting book about the way life ought to be, both at a personal and at a global level." --Sunday Times

His Gaia hypothesis is certainly heroic, with all the illusion-busting potential of Gallileo s or Einstein s theories. --The Independent

The scientist who, more than any other alive today, has changed the way we think of the earth and our place on it. --John Gray, 'New Statesman'

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The March family, that is to say, my mother's relatives, grew up in east London, north of the Thames. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Whilst talking to a colleague a few days ago, I mentioned that I had just read the autobiography of James Lovelock. He looked blank. "James Lovelock", I said, "the originator of the Gaia hypothesis? The idea that the processes of life maintain the earth in homeostatic balance?" He shook his head.
My colleague is a microbiologist and I was at first surprised that he had never heard of Lovelock or Gaia. After a little thought, I realised that the topic is probably not taught in many university microbiology courses. Lovelock is, after all, widely regarded as a maverick independent scientist, whose ideas have been variously vilified by evolutionary biologists (notably Richard Dawkins) and adopted as religion by the New Age environmental movement. However, Lovelock has always been something of a personal hero to me, so I began the story of his life with great anticipation.
I wasn't disappointed. Over the course of twelve chapters, Lovelock takes us through his early life and education and what he calls his "scientific apprenticeship", largely spent working for the Medical Research Council over some twenty years. He then describes his first steps towards an independent scientific career as an inventor and consultant, facilitated largely by his invention of the electron capture device (ECD), an instrument capable of detecting almost unimaginably tiny quantities of molecules in air and water samples. This leads to a spirited discussion of the "Ozone war" in the early 1970s, in which Lovelock became embroiled as a consultant for companies manufacturing CFCs.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating account of a life in science 19 Jun 2001
By A Customer
My brother gave me this book for Christmas, I was sceptical at first having heard a lot about Dr. Lovelock from my university lecturers however I soon found that I had been misinformed. This hugely enjoyable book enlightened me about Gaia theory, which states that life on earth regulates its climate and composition. It describes the life of a jack of all trades who discoveries range from CFC's in the atmosphere to di-methyl sulphide gas production by algae and how it forms clouds, he even had a hand in the early missions to Mars. He is remarkable candid about his life and although I do not agree with everything he says, I would count myself lucky if one day I can look back on a scientific career even half as varied and interested as the one this book describes. This book should be read by anybody considering science as a career or just interested in a good read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous brilliant and honest book. 3 May 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you like autobiographies by scientists this is for you. Here is a man - an independant scientist - [will there ever be his like again?] who not only comes up with one of the great ideas of the 20th C i.e. Gaia but also a great chemistry discovery i.e. a detector device used in GLC analysis. And a number of other briliant ideas and discoveries any one of which most scientists would be grateful for. In this book you will find how a great scientist works, thinks and feels. Warts and all. I ask this question: 'Why has such a great original thinker not been given The Nobel Prize'? Others have cashed in on his discoveries. Read it - I'd give it 6 stars if I could!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary man...a frustrating book 10 Jun 2004
That Lovelock is an extraordinary man shouldnt need mentioning: as an independent scientist, inventor and the creator fo the gaia hypothesis, I was excited to pick this up and read about his life. The early chapters recount his early years in S london and his eduction as a scientist during the war- an illuminating insight into a time when being a scientist was a profession of respect whose work was regarded as important for the nation and often quite dangerous. Early days with setting himself up as an independent and trips to NASA are also interesting and amke for fascinating reading. His honesty and candour shines through the entire book...but throughout i got the feeling something ws missing.
Gaia itself (or should i say herself), despite a huge build up is glossed over very quickly. the rest of the book then becomes a list of awards he was honoured to receive and interesting people he met and how charmed he was by them. Audaciously he also recounts his passionate liasions with his current wife while his first wife was dying from MS.
Then it struck me: lovelock, ever so careful when analysing the planet, never analyses himself. He describes events that happen to him, explains how he reacts and then moves on. There is a stunning lack of self awareness. For someone who exhorts the importance of having space to think for hours and days on end, he never expands on his thinking process. What was going through his head while his wife was degenerating from MS? he describes it as distressing but no more. What was he thinking when he began sleeping with another woman? As a socialist, how does he explain his admiration for Margaret Thatcher?
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