Life Stories (Paperback)

World-Renowned Scientists Reflect on their Lives and the Future of Life on Earth

By Heather Newbold (Editor)

University of California Press, 9780520218963, 246pp.

Publication Date: April 22, 2000

List Price: 29.95*
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Nearly every day, the media recount stories about the degradation of the Earth's environment; these stories are met with alarm by some and with skepticism by others. Life Stories presents testimony from some of the world's top environmental scientists who have seen firsthand the sobering effects of rapid global change: the extinction of species, worldwide damage to ecosystems, and the increasing alienation of human life from the natural world. A moving celebration of nature, and a tribute to the role of science in preserving our endangered future, this exceptional collection presents the personal and professional reflections of sixteen eminent scientists. Their views on the meaning and relevance of their work are interwoven with inspiring autobiographical accounts of how formative life experiences led to their research, conclusions, and activities.

These narratives, based on personal interviews, are by such world-renowned figures as James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis; Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and founder of Zero Population Growth; Max Nicholson, a founder of the World Wildlife Fund; and Sherwood Rowland, who discovered the chemistry of atmospheric ozone depletion.

These essays read like an intimate conversation with the world's top scientists. This collection also provides a view of the international development of ecology as a scientific enterprise. Life Stories demonstrates the important role of the scientific community in fostering worldwide awareness of the dangers facing the Earth today, and in seeking solutions for tomorrow. Young readers will find this book inspiring for the life stories it tells. Readers of all ages will find here a profound, urgent, and compelling message about the future of life on Earth.

About the Author

Heather Newbold is an independent scholar and writer.
Read the Mini-Biographies of the Scientists:
These brief descriptions necessarily omit many of these scientists' important achievements, awards, publications, and administrative contributions. Note, too, that the Nobel Prize is not awarded in the life sciences.
Lester Brown was an international agricultural analyst with the United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service, adviser to secretary of agriculture Orville Freeman on foreign agricultural policy, and administrator of the department's International Agricultural Development Service. He helped establish the Overseas Development Council, of which he became a senior fellow. In 1974 he founded the Worldwatch Institute to analyze global environmental issues. He continues to run the institute and oversee its research. In addition to books, a magazine, and periodic reports, it publishes the widely read State of the World reports.
Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies and president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, has researched ecology, entomology, evolutionary biology, and behavior, doing fieldwork all over the world. With Peter Raven, he developed the concept of coevolution. Of his thirty books, the best known is The Population Bomb, which led him to found the organization Zero Population Growth. He is internationally known for presciently warning of the dangers of overconsumption and overpopulation for the carrying capacity of the planet.
John Firor researched cosmic particle physics at the University of Chicago and then studied radioastronomy at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. His study of solar radio waves led him to the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, which later became the base of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). After being associate director in charge of solar research, Firor became director of NCAR and remained in management for over thirty years. His research contributions include solar-terrestrial relations, the physics of Earth's atmosphere, the impact of climate change, and policy use of scientific information.
Martin Holdgate was chief biologist of the British Antarctic Survey, deputy director (for research) of the British Nature Conservancy, and first director of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. In Britain, he was the first director of the Central Unit on Environmental Pollution and then chief scientist of the Departments of Environment and Transportation. He was president of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program and director general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature/World Conservation Union. He is president of the Zoological Society of London.
Henry Kendall won the Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of quarks. A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he researched meson and neutrino physics, nucleon structure, and high-energy electron scattering. He warned of safety hazards in the nuclear power industry, the dangers of nuclear weapons, and the impracticality of space-based weapons. He led the scientific community in assessing and developing means to control the adverse effects of advanced technologies. Until his untimely death, he was chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which he cofounded to conduct technical studies and provide public education to advance responsible public policies on issues in which science and technology play a critical role. He initiated the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" to bring public attention to the threats of global environmental degradation to Earth's life-support systems.
Thomas Lovejoy directed the science program of the World Wildlife Fund-United States and undertook a giant experiment in Brazil's rain forest, the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems Project, which became the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project. Later he originated innovative debt-for-nature swaps for international conservation. He also started the popular public television series Nature. He is head of Biodiversity and Environmental Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution, science adviser to the U.S. secretary of the interior, and chief biodiversity adviser at the World Bank.
James Lovelock, who has a Ph.D. in medicine and a D.Sc. in biophysics, worked at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Later he collaborated on lunar and planetary research with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His interdisciplinary research covers such broad fields as medicine, biology, geophysiology, and instrument science. He has filed over fifty patents for his inventions, and one, the electron-capture detector, first revealed the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues, PCBs, nitrous oxide, and the CFCs responsible for atmospheric ozone depletion. He is best known for originating the Gaia hypothesis.
Norman Myers initially documented the destruction of the world's rain forests and then identified and originated the strategy of conserving biodiversity "hot spots." As a conservation biologist and ecologist and international consultant on sustainable development, he has worked in over eighty countries on issues as varied as mass extinction of species, tropical forests, savannahs, and grasslands, global warming, population growth in developing countries, resource waste in developed countries, environmental economics, and the environmental dimensions of national and international security.
Max Nicholson, renowned conservationist, helped establish the Edward Gray Institute and the British Trust for Ornithology. He drafted "A National Plan for Britain," the basis of a socioeconomic group PEP (Political and Economic Planning). After World War II he was head of the office of the deputy prime minister. When the government created the British Nature Conservancy, he became its director general. Later he was a founder of the World Wildlife Fund/World Wide Fund for Nature. He also started and was chair of Earthwatch Europe and was head of the world conservation section of the International Biological Programme.
Elliott Norse was a marine biologist with the Environmental Protection Agency before becoming staff ecologist for the President's Council on Environmental Quality. Later he became public policy director of the Ecological Society of America and opened its Washington, D.C., office. He then compiled two books on American forests for the Wilderness Society. After being chief scientist at the Center for Marine Conservation, he founded the Marine Conservation Biology Institute to advance interdisciplinary research and collaboration in the emerging field of marine conservation biology. For further information, contact the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, 15806 NE 47th Court, Redmond, WA 98052.
Ruth Patrick's extensive research on diatoms led her to expand her study of their taxonomy, physiology, and ecology to an analysis of the aquatic environments that they inhabit. She invented the diatometer to detect pollution in freshwater conditions. Her field research focused on the biodiversity of rivers and how these ecosystems function under natural and polluted conditions. She founded the Limnology Department (now the Environmental Research Division) at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and later became chair of its board of trustees.
Peter Raven is director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, where he has developed botanical field research programs undertaken around the world, as well as the Center for Plant Conservation, a national consortium to preserve endangered species. In addition to heading a variety of international projects and committees, he is home secretary for the National Academy of Sciences and has convened studies for the National Science Foundation and the National Research Council on systematic and evolutionary biology and ecology, biodiversity, and other related interdisciplinary research.
Joseph Rotblat, a nuclear physicist, was the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project on principle. Ever since resigning, he has campaigned for nuclear disarmament and organized scientists for arms control. He chaired the press conference for the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, was cofounder of the Atomic Scientists Association, organized and still heads the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, cofounded the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and was president of the International Science Forum, in addition to heading organizations in the field of nuclear medicine. In 1995 Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sherwood Rowland created and was the first chair of the chemistry department of the University of California's Irvine campus. Previously he researched radioactive atoms and developed the subfield of tritium "hot-atom" chemistry. When his interest in chemical kinetics and photochemistry led him to determine the atmospheric fate of chlorofluorocarbons, he discovered that they were destroying stratospheric ozone. Realizing the environmental consequences of ozone depletion, he testified in legislative hearings to regulate CFC production. In 1995 Rowland and his colleague Mario Molina won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
David Suzuki was a professor at the University of British Columbia, doing genetics research, before he began his syndicated newspaper column, the radio program Quirks and Quarks, the television series Suzuki on Science, and the ongoing TV series The Nature of Things. In addition to producing over one hundred major research papers and textbooks, he has written twenty-five popular books. In 1989 his five-part Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series about the global environment, It's a Matter of Survival, brought such an impassioned public response that he started the David Suzuki Foundation to find solutions and create sustainable communities. For more information, contact the David T. Suzuki Foundation, 2211 West Fourth Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6K 4S2.
George M. Woodwell studies the structure and function of natural communities and their role as segments of the biosphere. He also investigates biotic impoverishment, especially the circulation and effects of persistent toxins, the ecological effects of ionizing radiation, and biotic interactions related to global warming. He was the founder and director of the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and also of the Woods Hole Research Center for global environmental research and policy. He was a founder of the Environmental Defense Fund and a founding trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. He has headed many groups and was chair of the World Wildlife Fund and president of the Ecological Society of America. He also headed the Nuclear Winter Symposium, the conference on the long-term biological consequences of nuclear war. An expert on the basic metabolism of ecosystems and the global carbon cycle, he contributed substantially to the "Framework on Climate Change" adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and he established a World Commission on Forests to protect all of Earth's forests.