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The Brazil Institute Mourns the Passing of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy

Paulo Sotero

A pioneering conservationist, biologist, and researcher, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy worked for over half a century to create scientific knowledge and raise awareness about the global repercussions of the Amazon’s gradual deforestation. He was a founding member of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute Advisory Council and a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in 2015. Lovejoy leaves a body of work that deepened understanding of rainforest fragmentation and the importance of preserving the hydrological equilibrium of the Amazon Basin. His legacy is enshrined not only through the vast network of scientists and policymakers he helped to educate, but also in two UN conventions on biodiversity and climate change that were adopted in 1992 in the Rio Conference on Environment and Development following years of behind-the-scenes efforts alongside past U.S. senators such as Albert Gore and Timothy Wirth, as well as former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit.

The very concept of “biological diversity” comes from the collaborative research that Tom developed over the years in collaboration with colleagues. Although he shied away from the spotlight, he was amused when a Brazilian publication described him as “the father of biodiversity.” As a young man, Lovejoy established a Smithsonian Institution laboratory north of Manaus to promote scientific investigation on the biological dynamics of the rainforest he dedicated his life to preserve. This laboratory –later an agency of the Brazilian government’s Institute of Amazon Research – became an important destination to educate and involve politicians, journalists, artists, scientists, and ecologists alike. Over the years, he also worked for and collaborated with international organizations such as the World Bank, sought to empower non-government organizations as key players in the conservation and climate debate, served as a senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation, and held the Biodiversity Chair at the George Mason University College of Science. A gregarious man who was close to his family and enjoyed receiving his many friends in his cozy cottage in Virginia, Tom was truly special. He will be greatly missed.

About the Author

Paulo Sotero

Paulo Sotero

Distinguished Fellow, Brazil Institute
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Brazil Institute

The Brazil Institute—the only country-specific policy institution focused on Brazil in Washington—works to foster understanding of Brazil’s complex reality and to support more consequential relations between Brazilian and US institutions in all sectors. The Brazil Institute plays this role by producing independent research and programs that bridge the gap between scholarship and policy, and by serving as a crossroads for leading policymakers, scholars and private sector representatives who are committed to addressing Brazil’s challenges and opportunities.  Read more