- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st ed edition (28 Sept. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192862138
- ISBN-13: 978-0192862136
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 0.3 x 23 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist Hardcover – 28 Sep 2000
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More About the Author
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
"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, and a strong contender for science book of the year."--Sunday TimesSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cover 4/5 Says what is in the box.
Content - I have already dipped into many different chapters in the book. Read more
James Lovelock must rank as one of the great scientists of his time. For this he must command immnese respect. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Kindle Customer
I have read all Mr Lovelock's books, detailing the Gaia Theory, a theory that shows the earth as a self regulating super organism. Read morePublished on 12 Nov. 2009 by James Gamble
Before reading this book I had heard of James Lovelock only as someone whom 'serious' people dismissed as irrelevant. Read morePublished on 16 Sept. 2009 by Rowland Nelken
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