Oral history of British science

Lovelock, James (part 10 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Climate Change Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Cornwall

  • Interviewees

    Lovelock, James, 1919 - (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: Comments on ‘Silent Spring’ [SS], Rachel Carson [RC] and RC’s ‘The Sea Around Us’; evidence used by RC. Story of working for Shell at time SS published; LR’s reaction to SS; scientists’ use of ECD to confirm SS; voluntary end of production of dieldrin by Shell. [04:44] Positive comments on Collins’ ‘New Naturalist’ [NN] series. Mentions Mellanby’s ‘Pesticides and Pollution’ (1967). [07:07] Story of seeing change in Britain on return from America to Bowerchalke 1964, including agribusiness, destruction of village communities in Southern England, reflected in Bowerchalke. Comments on own status in village, distinct from new middle class ‘outsiders’. Mentions William Golding [WG]. Comments on urban bias of British socialist governments. [11:08] Description of and valuing of visual quality of country haze in relation to memories of London smog. Mentions self as ‘old fashioned scientist’. Story of borrowing sun photometer from NOAA. Description of findings of photometer; operation of photometer; methods of calculating results. Mentions international network of photometers. [17:43] Comments on family interest in, help with photometer recording. Story of driving family to hill to view comet. Description of daughter Christine’s involvement in haze measurements. Mentions Helen’s measurements. [20:28] Comments on extent of summer haze at Bowerchalke; smell of haze, including ozone; European source; decision to measure CFCs with haze measurements; association of haze with CFCs. [23:36] Story of buying Clover’s Cottage [CC] with land in Bowerchalke as laboratory; family house built on land. [25:22] Description of CFC measuring at CC. [27:05] Comments on Green movement’s political interest in toxic chemicals. Story of American ‘Green’, Barry Commoner [BC], revealing dislike of JL at Nobel Symposium, Stockholm. Comments on reason for stressing that CFCs represented no toxic hazard in 1972 paper. [31:16] Story of natural carcinogenic compound methyl iodide detected in sea water on Shackleton voyage. Comments on ‘stupidity’, innumeracy of certain ‘Green’ campaigners. [32:30] Story of presenting Shackleton CFC measurements at Gordon Conference, New England, 1972; meeting industry scientist Ray McCarthy [RM], DuPont and Lester Machta [LM], NOAA. Mentions that Sherry Rowland [SR] first heard of JL’s CFC measurements from LM; lack of contact with SR or Mario Molina [MM] before American Congressional Hearings. [35:24] Story of reading SR and MM’s 1974 paper and deciding to measure CFCs in the stratosphere, on high altitude, SAS (Special Air Service) Hercules aeroplane. Description of flight. Mentions findings in ‘Nature’ paper, ignored by SR and MM. Comments on treatment of JL by American atmospheric scientists at this time; effect of JL’s relations with DuPont. [41:17] Description of method of air sampling on Hercules flight.

  • Description

    Life story interview with James Lovelock, independent scientist, environmentalist, author and researcher.

  • Related transcripts

    James Lovelock interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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