Oral history of British science

Lovelock, James (part 11 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 11: Story of decision to measure chemical cycles of sulphur and the halogen elements (chlorine, bromine, iodine), linked to early Gaia work; reading literature dimethyl sulphide [DS] emitting seaweeds/algae; fieldwork on beaches at Adrigole collecting seaweed specimens; analysis of emissions; production of dimethyl iodide [DI], carbon disulphide by particular species. Mentions examining PhD on emission by marine organisms bromoform (CHBr3); decision to sample water for chemicals, including DS and DI on Shackleton voyage; unsuitability of ECD for sulphur compounds. [05:31] Detailed description of methods of water sampling for DS and DI. [10:57] Story of CFC/ozone conference 1976, Logan, Utah, including comments on arguments presented concerning link between ozone depletion and skin cancer; presenting own more complicated argument graphically; being dismissed by Chairman due to perceived lack of medical expertise. [14:31] Comments on tribal nature of American ‘modellers’ engaged in ozone debate. Mentions current controversy concerning climate modelling. [15:32] Comments on varying characters of ‘modellers’; differences in tone of American and British science in 1970s; simplicity of Green, left-wing anti-industrial arguments; examples of ‘emotional’ rather than objective scientific engagement; arguments based on ignorance of America’s latitudinal range. [20:45] Comments on particular vulnerability of Caucasian humans to ultra violet light [UV]. Story of South African anti-white graffiti urging use of aerosols. [23:50] Story of appearing for DuPont as witness for defence at Congressional Hearing on proposed CFC ban, 1974. Comments on independence; refusal to accept payment from nuclear industry. Story of differences between tone of own and SR’s presentation to senators. Mentions effect in delaying ban; newspaper articles describing JL as ‘bought man of industry’; political polarisation of debate. Comments on grants awarded by Chemical Manufacturers Association [CMA]. [29:36] Mentions awareness of other scientists measuring UV and extent of ozone. [31:30] Comments on favourable situation of ‘measuring sites’: holiday cottage at Adrigole, Hungary Hill, Western Ireland and Coombe Mill [CM], Launceston, Cornwall. Story of buying mill in 40 acres of land. Comments on importance of remoteness of laboratory for measurements; reasons for moving from Bowerchalke. [34:22] Comments on need to calibrate commercial ECDs. Story of using old barn space to calibrate ECD using ‘exponential dilution’ technique. Detailed description of calibration process. [39:33] Discussion of use of calibration measurements in global ‘Atmospheric Lifetime Experiment’ [ALE]. Story of establishing ALE, for CMA. Comments on location/personnel of ALE stations. Mentions later take-over of ALE by GAGE. [42:04] Mentions ill health of self and wife; transfer of Adrigole station to Mace Head, Galway by GAGE. [43:12] Discussion of consistency across ALE network. [44:20] Story of buying holiday cottage on Bantry Bay, Adrigole in mid 1960s. Description of rural poverty in Western Ireland, mid 1960s. Story of welcoming atmosphere in spite of Northern Irish ‘troubles’. [47:25] Story of friendship with neighbouring family: O’Sullivans; Michael O’Sullivan [MOC] extending cottage, taking haze measurements, managing monitoring station, appearing in local ‘Cork Examiner’ [CE] newspaper; end of arrangement with MOC. Mentions photograph of JL and daughter in CE. Comments on MOC’s assistance.

  • 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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