Bolstered by new scientific evidence, research into how self- replicating organisms emerged from basic organic molecules present on the early Earth is moving away from the scientific fringe and into the mainstream.

Although there are only a handful of people who would call themselves origins-of-life researchers, the field is undergoing a renaissance, with a wide array of disciplines, such as radio astronomy, planetary science, molecular biology, and biochemistry, converging to make advances. Work on AIDS, on microbes living near hydrothermal ocean vents, and on the composition of interstellar gases are all contributing to answering questions about the origin of life. Molecular biology, the darling of today's biological sciences, is leading the pack.

Molecular biologists Sidney Altman at Yale University and Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado are not origins-of-life researchers, but their work has largely been responsible for retrieving this field from the outer reaches of science. They won...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?