Chemist and exobiologist Cyril Ponnamperuma was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and took a degree in philosophy at the University of Madras. He went on to study chemistry at Birkbeck College in London under crystallographer J.D. Bernal, a pioneer in studies of the origin of life. After receiving a Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of California, Berkeley, Ponreamperuma joined NASA'S Exobiology Division and kiter became chief of its chemical evolution branch. Since 1971 he has directed the Lab oratory of Chemical Evolution at the University of Maryland, which conducts re search into the chemical path by which life appeared on Earth.

Although naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1967, Ponnamperuma has maintained ties with his native country, where he serves as science adviser to President J.R. Jayewardene. He also directs both the Institute of Fundamental Studies there, which was formed in 1981 to promote and conduct research in...

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