Life: Its Nature and Origin

By Jerome Alexander | Go to book overview

Chapter 1 How Did Life Originate?

Regardless of how greatly we may differ as to explanations of its origin, life is an accomplished fact. H. E. Richter1 and Svante Arrhenius,2 dodged the whole question of the origin of life by suggesting that living spores--"seeds of being," Arrhenius called them--reached the earth from outer space, impelled by "light- pressure" which James Clerk Maxwell had shown to be an important factor affecting the tails of comets. E. Pflüger3 pointed out the analogies between proteins and cyanogen compounds, and suggested that living matter (protoplasm) arose from cyanogen and other carbon compounds, which formed as the earth cooled. The view is even now commonly expressed that "protoplasm" arose in the "primordial oceanic ooze," when the warm oceans were blanketed by heavy mists and an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide.

The following definition of protoplasm appeared in "Encyclopedia Britannica:"4 "A substance, composing wholly or in part all living cells, tissues or organisms of any kind, and hence regarded as the primary living substance, the physical and material basis of life. . . . A living organism of any kind whatsoever may be regarded as composed of (1) protoplasm, (2) substances or structures produced by this protoplasm, either by differentiation of the protoplasm itself, or by the excretory or secretory activity of living substance." The total inadequacy of this definition led me to remark:5 "Although isolated protoplasm may maintain activity for a short time under suitable conditions, it is incapable of self- reproduction, and should be regarded rather as a highly specific milieu in which the real, living self-reproductive units of cells exist and function. The concept of protoplasm as the ultimate 'living jelly' is a relic of antiquated text-books and should be definitely abandoned. The modern concept of protoplasm embraces the cytoplasm with its included nuclear and other particulate units."

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Life: Its Nature and Origin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents x
  • Chapter 1 How Did Life Originate? 1
  • References 8
  • Chapter 2 the Smallest Particles of Matter 9
  • References 38
  • Chapter 3 How Molecules Make Masses 41
  • References 61
  • Chapter 4 the Importance of "Impurities" and Trace Substances 64
  • References 78
  • Chapter 5 What Are Living Units? 79
  • References 89
  • Chapter 6 Catalysis: the Guide of Life 90
  • References 136
  • Chapter 7 Immunology and Self-Saving Catalysts 140
  • References 152
  • Chapter 8 Genetics: the Heritable Transmission of Catalysts 154
  • References 177
  • Chapter 9 the Catalyst Entelechy in Differentiation and Morphogenesis 179
  • References 212
  • Chapter 10 Some Catalytic Aspects of Disease and Drugs 215
  • References 244
  • Chapter 11 Catalysis as the Efficient Cause of Evolution 246
  • References 257
  • Chapter 12 Philosophy, the Guide of Mental Life 259
  • References 275
  • Author's Note 277
  • Author Index 279
  • Subject Index 286
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