Chapter

The What, When, and How of Life’s Beginnings

J. William Schopf

in Life's Origin

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233904
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520233904.003.0001
The What, When, and How of Life’s Beginnings

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This book presents an overall picture of how life emerged. It addresses the question: what is the origin of life, when did it begin, and how? Life is a natural outcome of the evolution of cosmic matter—by nucleosynthesis of life-generating elements that combined to form the biochemicals of every earthly living system. The book discusses the evolution of the cosmos from the Big Bang to the formation of planet Earth. It presents the origin-of-life scenario, beginning with the nonbiologic buildup in Earth's early oceans of chemical simple organic monomers, polymer formation, and the formation of gene-like, information containing molecules. The biology of primitive microbes living today is used to identify traits that date from near life's beginnings, and the ancient fossil record of tiny petrified cells and biochemical imprints left in rocks show what kinds of organisms were present early and how long life has existed. The book also suggests that evidence from the formative stages of the planet's history sheds light on when Earth's early hostile environment first became clement enough to harbor living systems.

Keywords: life; cosmic matter; evolution; nucleosynthesis; Big Bang; monomers; polymer; microbes

Chapter.  2291 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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