James Lovelock, 94, described as ‘one of the most important independent scientists of the 20th century’ will attend the Science Museum for the preview of a new exhibition, Unlocking Lovelock: Scientist, Inventor, Maverick on Tuesday 8 April.
The free exhibition tells the story of Professor Lovelock’s extraordinary work in fields as diverse as medicine, environmental science, atmospheric chemistry and space exploration.
The exhibition will feature highlights from a remarkable archive of images, manuscripts and audio-visual material acquired by the Science Museum in 2012 – providing visitors with a glimpse into life in Lovelock’s laboratory and his creative mind and charismatic personality.
Lovelock is most famous for formulating the Gaia hypothesis – the idea that Earth is a self-regulating system – which has profoundly shaped the way many scientists think about the planet.
Visitors will be able to see images of the scientist’s home laboratory where he conducted numerous scientific experiments and see scientific notebooks, charts and data, manuscripts of books, articles and lectures, patent material, photographs, audio-visual material, offprints and examples of the scientist’s own rough scribblings.
Prominent in the exhibition is the electron capture detector – one of Lovelock’s most important inventions – a device capable of detecting tiny concentrations of environmentally harmful compounds in the Earth’s atmosphere. In 1967 he used it to measure the supposedly clean air blowing off the Atlantic onto the west coast of Ireland and found that it contained CFCs, now known to cause ozone depletion.
Other notable items include Lovelock’s school reports – revealing a reluctant pupil with a passion for the natural world, and James Bond-style stories, written from Lovelock’s imagination – featuring heroic scientists. Visitors can also glimpse the watchmaker’s lathe that Lovelock used to build many of his inventions and the home-made gas chromatography equipment that journeyed to the Antarctic and back - which proved crucial to scientists’ current understanding of global atmospheric pollution.
The Lovelock collection adds to the Science Museum’s extensive collections about great scientists and captures the excitement of research and discoveries that are still in the making.
Alexandra Johnson, Project Leader, Science Museum said, “We are delighted to be able to showcase the achievements of one of the UK’s most famous living scientists – continuing our work of celebrating great scientists who have changed the course of the world such as Charles Babbage, Dorothy Hodgkin and James Watt.”
Professor Lovelock said, “I am delighted that the Science Museum has chosen to display this collection and I hope that it will show the next generation how it is possible to do scientific research as a lone inventor and scientist. I attribute the science I have done to the inspiration I received from visits to the museum from the age of 7 onwards.”
Lord Rees, Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society, calls Lovelock ‘one of the most important independent scientists of the 20th century.’
Unlocking Lovelock: Scientist, Inventor, Maverick, is a free exhibition that will run from 9 April 2014 for one year. The exhibition is part of the Science Museum’s Climate Changing programme – a series of events and exhibitions that support the Museum’s Atmosphere gallery. The programme has been made possible by support from Principal Sponsors Shell and Siemens, Major Sponsor Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Major Funder the Garfield Weston Foundation, and with additional support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Patrons of the Science Museum and members of the Founders Circle: Climate Changing programme: Accenture, Bayer and Barclays.