Oral history of British science

Lovelock, James (part 13 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 13: Story of buying first computer (HP) in early 1970s. Positive comments on Rosemary Buffington’s manuals. Story of using computer for ECD ‘numerical analysis’. Description of HP ‘plotter’. Comments on effect of computer on own mathematics. [04:03] Story of Richard Dawkins [RD] and others arguing that organisms can only regulate their own bodies; related decision to construct model to demonstrate mathematical basis of GH; programming of ‘Dasiyworld’[DW] model using HP 9845 computer in 1985; biologists’ response to DW; later versions. Mentions ‘three body’ problem in mathematics. [08:46] Story of issue of ‘Nature’ inspiring choice of the daisy for DW; involvement in programming of ‘SimEarth’ computer game. [11:21] Story of use of ‘software electronics’ to avoid soldering for instrumentation; use of IBM typewriter with software and magnetic storage to write early papers; use of ‘Wordwise’ on HP computers. [15:37] Mentions funding of Oxford conferences by Knut Kloster [KK]. Comments on 1988 American Geophysical Union Conference. Story of Stephen Schneider commenting positively on DW. Comments on attitude to Gaia of American scientists, reflected in recent review of ‘Revenge of Gaia’. [18:27] Comments on ‘Germanic’ and ‘macho’ style of American science, contrasted to ‘liberal’ culture of NIMR. [20:36] Story of organisation of conferences on Gaia, 1991, Green College, Oxford. Comments on importance of discussions outside of formal papers; decisions about who to invite to speak; decision not to invite RD; decision of JL and Sandy Lovelock [SL] not to be present at gatherings between papers; effect of conferences on attitude to Gaia of JMS. [25:20] Detailed comments on effect on JL and GH of marriage to SL. Mentions role of SL in idea development. [27:43] Story of origin of relations with Crispin Tickell [CT], 1979. Comments on status of Ages of Gaia as a peer reviewed book published by Commonwealth Fund; refusal of American scientists to quote from it; American plagiarism. Description of model of methane in past atmospheres plagiarised by American scientists and JL’s own students. Comments on ‘censorship’ of Gaia papers. Story of ‘Nature’ editor John Maddox inviting JL in mid 1980s to submit paper. [34:20] Mentions KK’s possible emotional interest in Gaia concept. [35:19] Comments CT developing Margaret Thatcher’s [MT] interest in climate change. Detailed story of attending dinner at Number 10 (Downing Street), being engaged in conversation about climate change and Gaia by MT, resulting in later seminar. Comments on MT’s questions. [40:11] Story of informal seminar at Number 10, precursor to IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), attended by JL, CT, John Houghton [JH], Bob Watson, Robert Oppenheim (Green lobbyist) and others. Mentions graphs displayed. Story of lunch following seminar, including JL’s advice to MT on Cold Fusion. [46:48] Positive comments on MT’s support for anti-global warming policy. Story of MT faxing JL script of speech on global warming. [48:13] Positive comments on British Green movement. Story of early 1990s speech for Friends of the Earth, including positive appraisal of nuclear power. [49:34] Comments on distinction between British Green movement and ‘fanatical’ American Green movement. Mentions BC. [49:50] Comments on effect on Gaia of popular and political interest in global warming in UK; lack of effect in United States; relations between Gaia and climate modelling. [51:30] Story of recent by Hadley Centre [HC] that near future computers will incorporate Gaia theory in HC climate models. Comments on incompleteness of current climate models, admitted by geophysicists at HC; folly of using these models to predict ahead 50 years. Mentions Lord Stern. Positive comments about JH. [54:31] Description of first wife Helen’s role in supporting JL as independent scientist, dislike of United States, attitude to GH. Mentions lack of discussion of content of GH with Helen. [56:35] Mentions breadth of Gaia. Comments on significance of CM, including mistakes in planting trees; greater significance of Adrigole. Description of Adrigole landscape. [01:00:55] Comments on neighbouring farms; local farming practices; neighbours interest in JL and Gaia.

  • 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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