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James Lovelock

What kind of man suggests the world is an organism—and wins scientific acceptance for his idea?

By Philip Ball   November 2000

James Lovelock shares at least two things with Charles Darwin. One is that as a child he roved in the same Kent countryside near Orpington. The other is that popular conceptions of his scientific ideas often bear only a sketchy correspondence to his actual words. Although Lovelock’s idea that the Earth is a super-organism, which he calls Gaia, has become a keystone of the environmental movement, his relationship with environmentalism is ambivalent and many greens would be shocked by his views. He is unrepentant about naming his hypothesis, at William Golding’s suggestion, after a goddess. But he now encourages the…

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