Science for Health
13 June 2011
The electron capture detector, invented by James Lovelock while working at NIMR, played a key part in alerting the world to the dangers of unchecked pollution. It was originally designed for analytical purposes in the laboratory, as a detector for gas chromatography, and was able to detect minute amounts of chemicals. However, because it was also able to detect industrial pollutants in the atmosphere it became an important tool in environmental research. Lovelock worked at NIMR for twenty years, from 1941 to 1961. A few years after leaving the Institute James Lovelock became an independent scientist and later wrote The Gaia Hypothesis.
The Observer Ethical Awards were established in 2005 to recognise campaigners, innovators and socially aware businesses. The winner of the Lifetime Achievement award is chosen by the judging panel. Previous winners were Sir David Attenborough and Gordon Roddick.
I was delighted to hear about James Lovelock's well-deserved award. His development of the electron capture detector, and his subsequent use of the technique to chart the presence of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere, paved the way for future environmental studies.
Jim Smith, Director of NIMR
A 2005 photograph of James Lovelock. Photograph taken by Bruno Comby of the Association of Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy.
Original image is at http://www.ecolo.org/lovelock/.
Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license versions 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0.
This is the most marvellous award I have received yet and I am deeply moved by it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
© MRC National Institute for Medical Research
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