Thomas Lovejoy, Ph.D.

In Memory, 1941-2021
Amazon Biodiversity Center
Professor, George Mason University
Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation

Thomas Lovejoy, Ph.D., is an innovative and accomplished conservation biologist who coined the term “biological diversity.” In 2010 he was elected university professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. He currently also holds the biodiversity chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment based in Washington, D.C. He served as president of the Heinz Center from 2002–2008.  

Before assuming this position, Lovejoy was the World Bank’s chief biodiversity advisor and lead specialist for environment for Latin America and the Caribbean as well as senior advisor to the president of the United Nations Foundation. Spanning the political spectrum, Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations.  

At the core of these many influential positions are Lovejoy’s seminal ideas, which have formed and strengthened the field of conservation biology. In the 1980s, he brought international attention to the world’s tropical rainforests, and in particular, the Brazilian Amazon, where he has worked since 1965. In 1980 he produced the first projection of global extinctions for the Global 2000 Report to the President. Lovejoy also developed the now ubiquitous “debt-for-nature” swap programs and led the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems project. With two co-edited books (1992 and 2005), he is credited with founding the field of climate change biology. He and Lee Hannah are working on the Second Edition of Climate Change and Biodiversity. He also founded the series Nature, the popular long-term series on public television.  

In 2001, Lovejoy was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2009, he was the winner of BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology Category. In 2009 he was appointed conservation fellow by the National Geographic. In 2012, he was recognized by the Blue Planet Prize. Lovejoy holds bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Yale University in biology.