James Lovelock FRS

Born on 26 July 1919 in Letchworth Garden City, Lovelock attended school in Brixton, south London, then worked at the photographics laboratory of Murray, Bull and Spencer. His chemistry skills became so polished that he breezed through his undergraduate biochemistry practicals at the University of Manchester and was unjustly accused of cheating.

James Lovelock
James Lovelock

During World War Two Lovelock was excused from being drafted into the army as a conscientious objector. He joined NIMR in 1941 to work with Robert Bourdillon in the Air Hygiene Unit (see Chapter 2). He married receptionist Helen Hislop and in 1946 moved to the MRC Common Cold Research Unit near Salisbury. Returning to London in 1952, Lovelock worked on the cold temperature preservation of sperm and other tissues (see Chapter 19). In 1955 he transferred to the Division of Biochemistry and developed the argon ionisation detector and the electron capture detector. He felt constrained, however, by the prospect of steady life and in 1961 left NIMR to become an independent scientist. He worked at Baylor College and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA, and as a scientific consultant to industry, and gained widespread public recognition for his Gaia Hypothesis, providing a massive boost to the environmental movement.

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