From the primordial soup to meteorite impact zones, the Manhattan Project to the latest research, this book is the first full history of the scientists who strive to explain the genesis of life. How did life begin? Why are we here? These are some of the most profound questions we can ask. For almost a century, a small band of eccentric scientists has struggled to answer these questions and explain one of the greatest mysteries of all: how and why life began on Earth. There are many different proposals, and each idea has attracted passionate believers who promote it with an almost religious fervor, as well as detractors who reject it with equal passion. But the quest to unravel life’s genesis is not just a story of big ideas. It is also a compelling human story, rich in personalities, conflicts, and surprising twists and turns. Along the way, the journey takes in some of the greatest discoveries in modern biology, from evolution and cells to DNA and life’s family tree. It is also a search whose end may finally be in sight. In The Genesis Quest, Michael Marshall shows how the quest to understand life’s beginning is also a journey to discover the true nature of life, and by extension our place in the universe.
Michael Marshall is a science writer interested in life sciences and the environment. He has a BA and MPhil in experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in science communication from Imperial College, London. He has worked as a staff journalist at New Scientist and the BBC. Since 2017 he has been a freelance writer, published by outlets including BBC Future, the Observer, Nature, New Scientist, and the Telegraph. In 2019 he was shortlisted for News Item of the Year by the Association of British Science Writers. He lives in Devon, UK, with his wife and daughter.
Table of Contents
IntroductionPART ONE Primordial Science 1. The Biggest Question 2. A Soviet Free Thinker 3. Creation in a Test TubePART TWO Strange Objects 4. The DNA Revolution 5. Crystal Clear 6. The SchismPART THREE Scattered, Divided, Leaderless 17. The Other Long Molecule 18. Rise of the Replicators 19. The Blobs 10. The Need for Power 11. Born in the DepthsPART FOUR Reunification 12. Mirrors 13. Return of the Blobs 14. Just Messy Enough Epilogue: The Meaning of Life Acknowledgements Bibliography Notes Index