Always a controversial and compelling topic, the origin of life on Earth was considered taboo as an area of inquiry for science as recently as the 1950s. Since then, however, scientists working in this area have made remarkable progress, and an overall picture of how life emerged is coming more clearly into focus. We now know, for example, that the story of life's origin begins not on Earth, but in the interiors of distant stars. This book brings a summary of current research and ideas on life's origin to a wide audience. The contributors, all of whom received the Oparin/Urey Gold Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, are luminaries in the fields of chemistry, paleobiology, and astrobiology, and in these chapters they discuss their life's work: understanding the what, when, and how of the early evolution of life on Earth. Presented in nontechnical language and including a useful glossary of scientific terms, Life's Origin gives a state-of-the-art encapsulation of the fascinating work now being done by scientists as they begin to characterize life as a natural outcome of the evolution of cosmic matter.
|Publisher:||University of California Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
J. William Schopf is Professor of Paleobiology and Director of the IGPP Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils (1999) and Missing Fossils: Solution to the Mystery of Photosynthesis (1998), and has edited several other volumes.
Table of Contents
List of Figures and Tables
Introduction: The What, When, and How of Life’s Beginnings 1. Historical Understanding of Life’s BeginningsJohn OróWhat Is Life?Beliefs and Hypotheses on the Origin of LifeChemical EvolutionPersonal Reminiscences Cosmological Evolution and the Origin of LifeThe Earth–Moon SystemExploration of the Solar System Life Beyond the Solar System EpilogueReferences2. From Big Bang to Primordial Planet: Setting the Stage for the Origin of LifeAlan W. Schwartz and Sherwood Chang
IntroductionOrigin of the Biogenic ElementsOrigin of the Solar SystemEarthFurther Reading3. Formation of the Building Blocks of LifeStanley L. Miller and Antonio Lazcano
IntroductionThe Heterotrophic Origin of LifePrebiotic Syntheses of Amino AcidsSynthesis of Nucleic Acid BasesPrebiotic Synthesis of SugarsHydrothermal Vents and the Origin of LifeExtraterrestrial Organic Compounds and Prebiotic EvolutionAn Autotrophic Origin of Life?Have Too Many Cooks Spoiled the Soup?References4. From Building Blocks to the Polymers of Life James P. Ferris The Biopolymers in the First LifeThe RNA World: The Prebiotic Synthesis of RNAThe Role of Polypeptides in the Origin of LifeConclusionsReferencesFurther Reading5. The Origin of Biological
InformationLeslie E. Orgel
IntroductionThe RNA WorldWhat’s Wrong with the Molecular Biologist’s Dream?The Metabolist ArgumentConclusion and OutlookReferences6. When Did Life Begin?J. William Schopf
IntroductionEvidence from Living OrganismsEvidence from the Rock RecordWhen Was Earth Ready for Life?The What and When of Life’s BeginningsFurther ReadingList of Contributors Glossary