A revelatory journey of discovery into the intricate, beautiful, and often surprising processes that convert energy from the sun into life, and how all-important these are to our survival—and our planet’s future
It’s a clunky word for a miracle: Photosynthesis. But there’s no life on Earth without it. For biologist Raffael Jovine, it’s a consuming passion, a great unsung force of nature. He makes his case in How Light Makes Life, a catalog of living wonders—and a blueprint for a better planet.
Imagine harvesting pure sunlight to use as fuel, while turning carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. This is what a leaf does every day. And photosynthesis isn’t just for plants: Corals partner with photosynthetic organisms to create the most productive habitat on Earth. Slugs eat chloroplasts as natural green camouflage. Hornets use photosynthesis as an innovative means of air-conditioning—and much more!
The revelatory vision of How Light Makes Life is how we ourselves might harness the power of photosynthesis: to repair ecosystems, stabilize the climate, and grow more food sustainably. On this vivid journey, you’ll see how every seed contains the key to our future—through the photosynthetic pigments in your own eyes!
About the Author
Raffael Jovine trained in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale, did his PhD in marine sciences at UC Santa Barbara, then completed research at MIT. In 2013, he founded and is now chief scientist for a company that uses seawater, sunlight, and wind to grow food in coastal deserts, replicating algal blooms. He is married with five children and lives in London.
“An accessible survey of all things photosynthetic. . . . Jovine keeps a casual tone, and his enthusiasm makes him a great guide.”—Publishers Weekly
“It took nearly three centuries for a roster of mystics, alchemists, priests, physicians, poets, cocaine-snorting scientists and adventurers to discover photosynthesis. Thanks to Raffael Jovine, it will take you less than three hours to understand the power and glory of this process. A scientist, a seer, and a storyteller all in one, Jovine explains his passion for an idea that just might save the planet.”—Sebastian Mallaby, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
“Read this book and you will learn how photosynthesis was discovered, how it works, and how we can produce more food to feed the world.”—Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize–winning author of What Is Life?
“Photosynthesis is not only remarkable, it is the foundation of who we are and the lives we can lead. This outstanding book shows that it is also fascinating, inspirational, and the key to building a sustainable future.”—Lord Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics