KING, Alexander (b. January 26, 1909, Glasgow, Scotland; d. February 8, 2007, London, uk) – scientist, statesman, and a public figure, co-founder of the Club of Rome, one of the authors of the concept of sustainable development.
President of the Club of Rome in 1984–85. He was educated in the field of chemistry at the Universities of London and Munich. In 1940, when there was a real threat that Britain would be occupied by Nazi Germany, King led a research group, which developed programs for British military intelligence. Also during World War ii he explored the properties of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (ddt) as an effective means of protection against insects, which was especially important during the war in Asia. Despite his significant contribution to the promotion of ddt and its further production, he strongly opposed its use later, because of its devastating effects on the environment. In 1943–47 he led the uk mission to Washington and served as attaché for science of the British Embassy in the United States. In 1947–50 he was the head of the secretariat of the first scientific committee of science policy (Committee of the Defense Science Policy of the Cabinet of Ministers of the uk). From 1957, King worked in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd). In 1961–68 he was Director for Science in the oecd.
In 1968–74 he was the organization’s General Director for Science. He was extremely worried about the prevailing admiration in the oecd for growth and development, without consideration for its long-term consequences. He felt and realized the need to create a non-governmental body which could ask direct questions and demand straight answers, forcing the government to think about the future. In 1967–68, Aurelio Peccei and King held several meetings, and the result was their realization that affirmative actions needed to be taken to create this non-governmental body, which they named the Club of Rome. Peccei and King were convinced that economic development needed to be viewed in a broader context, taking into account political, social, and environmental consequences. King worried about the problem of accelerating population growth, and the consumption of food, energy, and resources, which could eventually lead the world to the point of exhaustion of resources, and eventual destruction of the environment.
He sharply criticized the concept of “growth for growth’s sake,” calling the oecd a “temple of prosperity of industrially developed countries.”
Being a pioneer in the field of sustainable development, he introduced the practice of annual surveys in the field of science policy, which were made by all participants in the oecd, and he participated in the creation of reviews of the role of science and technology in the development of society, something which was advanced for its time. He paid great attention to the problem of inequality between North and South. He emphasized the importance of cooperation between nato and the Warsaw Pact countries in the face of global challenges.
King received international recognition for his contributions to science policy, as well as for his attempts to attract the world’s attention to the problems of environmental degradation and the dangers of a worsening environment long before the existence of these problems was recognized by national governments.
He believed that in today’s technologically developing world support for science and application of high technologies should be the foundation of socially responsible government.
In his autobiography, Let the Cat Turn Around: One Man’s Traverse of the Twentieth Century, King warned mankind that globalization involves the risk that culture will be degraded.
Works.: Science and Policy: The International Stimulus (London,1974); The State of the Planet (Oxford, 1980); The First Global Revolution (New York City, 1991); Let the Cat Turn Around: One Man’s Traverse of the Twentieth Century (London, 2006).