Pioneering climate scientist and creator of the Gaia theory, James Lovelock, has died on his 103rd birthday in his home in Dorset.
Named after the Greek goddess of the Earth, the Gaia theory was considered a breakthrough moment in the environmental movement and forms the basis of modern understanding of climate change.
Lovelock was one of the first to raise the alarm on climate change and environmental degradation, as early as 1965 when petrol giant Shell asked him what the world would look like in the year 2000.
He remained a passionate and influential voice on the subject up until his death.
“To the world he was best known as a scientific pioneer, climate prophet and conceiver of the Gaia theory. To us, he was a loving and wonderful husband with a boundless sense of curiosity, a mischievous sense of humour and a passion for nature,” his family said in a public statement.
The independent scientist operated out of his own lab in Cornwall and often had outspoken views, suggesting in an interview that humans were too stupid to prevent climate change.
Environmentalists, politicians and scientists have paid tribute to both his warm character and his contributions to science.
“Jim’s books on Gaia captivated me as 18 year old and set my own scientific path,” said director of Global Systems Institute Tim Lenton. “He will go down history as the person who changed our view of our place on Earth.
“We need Jim’s way of thinking now more than ever if we are to get out of a climate and ecological crisis of our own making,”
Deep ecology professor at Schumacher College in Devon, where Lovelock taught for 11 years, Dr Stephan Harding, said: “Doing Gaia science with him was like being taken to the top of Mount Everest on the clearest of days and looking out on a vast panorama of snowy peaks undulating away majestically into the far blue distance. There is no doubt that Lovelock was one of the most important scientists of all time.”
Meanwhile financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith pointed out that while he was the first scientist to make this discovery, he was not the first.
“James Lovelock was the first westerner to propose that the world is a single living being. This, of course, has always been an obvious truth to animist, indigenous societies. What a man, what a life,” Goldsmith said in a statement on Twitter.
Green MP for Brighton, Caroline Lucas, said on Twitter: “What an extraordinary legacy. An amazing scientific pioneer and proposer of the Gaia hypothesis. The green movement has lost a huge champion and intellect.”