May I remind you why I call the Earth Gaia? It came about in the 1960s when the author William Golding, who subsequently won the Nobel and many other prizes, was near neighbor and friend. We both lived in the village of Bowerchalke, twelve miles southwest of Salisbury in southern England. We would often talk on scientific topics on walks around the village or in the village pub, the Bell Inn. In 1968 or 1969, during a walk, I tried out my hypothesis on him; he was receptive because, unlike most literary figures, he had taken physics while at Oxford as an undergraduate and fully understood the science of my argument. He grew enthusiastic and said, “If you are intending to come out with a large idea like that, I suggest that you give it a proper name: I propose ‘Gaia.'” I was pleased with his suggestion – it was a word, not an acronym, and even then I saw the Earth as in certain ways alive, at least to the extent that it appeared to regulate its own climate and chemistry. Few scientists are familiar with the classics, and are unaware that Gaia is sometimes given the alternate name ‘Ge.’ Ge, of course, is the prefix of the sciences of geology, geophysics and geochemistry. To Golding, Gaia, the goddess who brought order out of chaos, was the appropriate title for a hypothesis about an Earth system that regulate its climate and chemistry so as to sustain habitability.

James Lovelock