Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life by Jon Turney, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life

Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life

by Jon Turney
     
 

How is it possible that Earth's atmospheric temperature has remained perfectly suited to supporting life for billions of years? Why do oxygen levels in the atmosphere remain relatively stable when only a minuscule increase would cause everything on Earth to spontaneously combust? Why are the oceans salty, but not salty enough to make them uninhabitable? In the

Overview

How is it possible that Earth's atmospheric temperature has remained perfectly suited to supporting life for billions of years? Why do oxygen levels in the atmosphere remain relatively stable when only a minuscule increase would cause everything on Earth to spontaneously combust? Why are the oceans salty, but not salty enough to make them uninhabitable? In the 1960s, an English scientist names James Lovelock formulated a groundbreaking and highly controversial explanation: Earth is alive.

Naming his theory after the ancient Greek earth goddess, Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis" argued that everything on the planet—air, water, soil, and living organisms—somehow act together in a global, self-organizing system to maintain conditions suitable to sustaining and perpetuating life. Lovelock speculated that the geosphere and biosphere were interdependent and that every part of the Earth system worked in symbiotic harmony with every other part. Once considered more science fiction than legitimate science, the Gaia hypothesis was met with indifference, and even hostility, when it was first revealed. The theory only started to gain widespread attention when emerging issues such as environmental degradation and global warming proved that a single species—humans—could radically upset the ecological and atmospheric balance of the planet. While Gaia attracted a quasi-religious following among environmentalists and New Age spiritualists, it was still largely viewed with skepticism by the scientific community. But over the past few decades, many of Lovelock's ideas have led to significant breakthroughs. In fact, the Gaia hypothesis has developed into a guiding principle for a vast range of discrete inquiries into how the Earth works, often referred to as "Earth system science" or "geophysiology." Telling the story of this maverick pioneer and his long struggle to gain respectability, Lovelock and Gaia explains how Lovelock's remarkable hypothesis is gradually ushering in a scientific revolution.

Editorial Reviews

New Scientist
Turney's writing is beautifully clear and maintains an admirable objectivity.... The result is never less than absorbing.

Booklist
a detailed account of a novel theory and its maverick originator, contributing to the annals of environmental thought and the history of ideas.

— Rebecca Maskel

Science and Theology News
A great weekend read, Lovelock & Gaia will educate readers on a topic that will be relevant for years to come.

— Brenda Braaten

Booklist - Rebecca Maskel
a detailed account of a novel theory and its maverick originator, contributing to the annals of environmental thought and the history of ideas.

Science and Theology News - Brenda Braaten
A great weekend read, Lovelock & Gaia will educate readers on a topic that will be relevant for years to come.

Quarterly Review of Biology
Excellent...

Library Journal
In the 1960s, British scientist James Lovelock formulated the Gaia hypothesis, which advocated the idea of Earth as a single biota, i.e., a living organism. It was dismissed at first by many scientists but over the years has attracted the support of environmentalists. In this biography, Turney, the editorial director of Penguin Press (London), recounts how Lovelock developed the idea and discusses its somewhat bumpy evolution from outright condemnation to scientific support. Writing for a general audience, Turney skims the science involved but adds enough details to infuse the theory with scientific weight. In light of environmentalism's rise, this title would be a useful overview, but it should be balanced by other, more critical perspectives. Turney writes in a conversational style whose Briticisms don't always ring well to an American ear. Although appropriate for school and public libraries, this book is a little too lightweight to stand on its own in academic collections. Margaret F. Dominy, Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231134309
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
09/22/2004
Series:
Revolutions in Science Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
168
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jon Turney, formerly a professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London, is editorial director of Penguin Press, London, and the author of Frankenstein's Footsteps.

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