Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

By James Lovelock | Go to book overview

1 Introductory

As I write, two Viking spacecraft are circling our fellow planet Mars, awaiting landfall instructions from the Earth. Their mission is to search for life, or evidence of life, now or long ago. This book also is about a search for life, and the quest for Gaia is an attempt to find the largest living creature on Earth. Our journey may reveal no more than the almost infinite variety of living forms which have proliferated over the Earth's surface under the transparent case of the air and which constitute the biosphere. But if Gaia does exist, then we may find ourselves and all other living things to be parts and partners of a vast being who in her entirety has the power to maintain our planet as a fit and comfortable habitat for life.

The quest for Gaia began more than fifteen years ago, when NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA) first made plans to look for life on Mars. It is therefore right and proper that this book should open with a tribute to the fantastic Martian voyage of those two mechanical Norsemen.

In the early nineteen-sixties I often visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, as consultant to a team, later to be led by that most able of space biologists Norman Horowitz, whose main objective was to devise ways and means of detecting life on Mars and other planets. Although my particular brief was to advise on some comparatively simple problems of instrument design, as one whose childhood was illuminated by the writings of Jules Verne and Olaf Stapledon I was delighted to have the chance of discussing at first hand the plans for investigating Mars.

At that time, the planning of experiments was mostly based on the assumption that evidence for life on Mars would be much the same

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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introductory 1
  • 2 - In the Beginning 12
  • 3 - The Recognition of Gaia 30
  • 4 - Cybernetics 44
  • 5 - The Contemporary Atmosphere 59
  • 6 - The Sea 78
  • 7 - Gaia and Man: The Problem of Pollution 100
  • 8 - Living Within Gaia 115
  • 9 - Epilogue 133
  • Definitions and Explanations of Terms 143
  • Further Reading 147
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