The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985

One of the most recent extrapolations of the concept of the “cycle of life” is the Gaia, or Living Earth theory. Beginning in 1970, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis developed a scientific understanding of how the earth operates as a self-regulating living system. Lovelock contributed his research on the earth’s atmosphere, in which he developed the holistic view that microbes, plants, and animals constantly metabolize matter into energy, converting sunlight into nutrients, and emitting and absorbing gas. To the theory, Margulis contributed her deep understanding of microbial ecology, and especially of the role that microbial communities play in the Gaian ecosystem. Although the two disagree somewhat as the relative importance of Vernadsky and Hutchinson in the history of science, both studied their work carefully.
Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1793
Charles Darwin, On the Formation of Vegetable Matter by Worms, 1881
Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858
Dumas and Boussingault, Balance of Organic Matter, 1844
Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria, The Smallest Living Beings, 1872
Louis Pasteur, Etudes sur la Biere, 1862
Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky, 1953
Selman Waksman, Humus, 1939
Vladimir Vernadsky, Principles of Biogeochemistry, 1960
James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520-8298
Office: (203).432.3112

The Sterling Memorial Exhibit is located in the Overflow Case to the left of the circulation desk. The Sterling Memorial Library is located at

120 High Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520
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