Beginnings of Cellular Life


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Metabolism Recapitulates Biogenesis

Harold J. Morowitz

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In this book an internationally renowned scientist presents a radically new theory of the origin of life on Earth 4 billion years ago.

Harold J. Morowitz postulates that the first step toward the origin of life was the spontaneous condensation of amphiphilic molecules to form vesicles (or protocells). This hypothesis provides a framework for reexamining the emergence of cellularity. Morowitz further proposes that core metabolic processes have not changed for some 3.8 billion years, so we can use a study of modern biochemistry to advance our knowledge about the chemical processes of the earliest protocells. Morowitz views origin of life issues from the perspective of certain constructs in the philosophy of science that provide guideposts to formulating and assessing hypotheses. This book presents a unique discussion among origin-of-life books on the relation between science and epistemology on the difficult problem of learning about the very distant past.

"This book is an extraordinary integration of a lifetime of thought on the subject by an exceptional scholar. Morowitz logically, consistently, and persuasively moves to define arguments that will influence thought in a fundamental realm of biology."—Donald M. Engelman, Yale University

"Morowitz develops a model of the origin of life in which cells originate first, proteins follow, and genes evolve last. This model contradicts conventional wisdom but has the distinct advantage of being testable and is supported by evidence mustered from biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. Morowitz['s] expertise in all three disciplines is impressive."—Francisco J. Ayala, Dept. of Ecology and Evol. Biology, University of California, Irvine

"In this short and clearly written book, Morowitz explores the origins of life. . . . His objective is elegantly achieved. . . . A stimulating analysis . . . [and] an excellent read."—A. E. Douglas, Times Higher Education Supplement

"It will be a valuable reference of those interested in new theories of the origin of life on Earth."—Biological Abstracts/RRM

"Bristling with new insights, [this book] is a pleasure to read because it is charming, logical, literate, and truly new. . . . [A] gem of a book. . . . It is a splendid contribution to the literature on the origins of life."—Lynn Margulis, BioScience

"The book fills a significant void, providing a much-needed overview and perspective to the problem of life's origin."—D.W. Deamer, Trends in Cell Biology

"[A] book rich in provocative and stimulating ideas. . . . I recommend it to anyone who has ever thought seriously about the origin of life."—Vincent P. Cirillo, Quarterly Review of Biology

ISBN: 9780300102109
Publication Date: August 11, 2004
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
15 b/w illus.