James Lovelock: A man for all seasons

From New Statesman:

GaiaThere can be no doubt that the idea of Gaia came to Lovelock as a kind of epiphany. But the Gaia theory originated in the experimental difficulties of detecting signs of life on Mars, and he has developed the theory in rigorously scientific terms, producing a computer model of a virtual planet (Daisyworld) in which a self-regulating climate could emerge from simple organisms by a process of natural selection. The novelist William Golding was a neighbour of Lovelock’s in the Wiltshire village of Bowerchalke and became a close friend. He proposed the name of Gaia – the earth goddess in Greek mythology – for the self-regulating planet. Although Lovelock is grateful to Golding for his inspired suggestion, he views the notion of the earth as a self-regulating system as an integral part of science.

…Where he differs from many is that his life affirmation is not restricted to human beings. He tells me his next book will consider the possibility that evolution may produce another species, one more capable than human beings have been of coexisting with other life forms on the planet. His intellectual iconoclasm showing no signs of diminishing, Lovelock, in his tenth decade, continues to produce ideas that fundamentally challenge the prevailing world-view. A unique thinker, he has no obvious successor, yet in gaining wide acceptance of the idea that our planet is a self-regulating system, he has had a profound effect on many branches of scientific inquiry. Along with millions of others, I can’t wait to hear the latest thoughts of the scientist who, more than any other alive today, has changed the way we think of the earth and our place on it.

More here.