© 1983

Cosmochemistry and the Origin of Life

Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Study Institute held at Maratea, Italy, June 1–12, 1981

  • Cyril Ponnamperuma
Conference proceedings

Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (ASIC, volume 101)

About these proceedings


For the first time in human history, developments in many branches of science provide us with an opportunity of formula­ ting a comprehensive picture of the universe from its beginning to the present time. It is an awesome reflection that the carbon in our bodies is the very carbon which was generated during the birth of a star. There is a perceptible continuum through the billions of years which can be revealed by the study of chemistry. Studies in nucleosynthesis have related the origin of the elements to the life history of the stars. The chemical elements we find on earth, HYdrogen, Carbon, Oxygen, and Nitrogen, were created in astronomical processes that took place in the past, and these elements are not spread throughout space in the form of stars and galaxies. Radioastronomers have discovered a vast array of organic molecules in the interstellar medium which have a bearing on prebiological chemical processes. Many of the molecules found so far contain the four elements, C, N, 0, H. Except for the chem­ ically unreactive He, these four elements are the most abundant in the galaxy. The origin of polyatomic interstellar molecules is an unresolved problem. While we can explain the formation of some diatomic molecules as due to two atom collisions, it is much more difficult to form polyatomic molecules by collisions between diatomic molecules and atoms. There may be other produc­ tion mechanisms at work such as reactions taking place on the surface of interstellar dust grains.


collision diatomic molecule galaxies interstellar matter molecule solar system star universe

Editors and affiliations

  • Cyril Ponnamperuma
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Cosmochemistry and the Origin of Life
  • Book Subtitle Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Study Institute held at Maratea, Italy, June 1–12, 1981
  • Editors Cyril Ponnamperuma
  • Series Title NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1983
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-90-277-1544-9
  • Softcover ISBN 978-94-009-7074-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-009-7072-4
  • Series ISSN 1389-2185
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 386
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Astrophysics and Astroparticles
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


`This volume cannot be too highly commended. It provides the perfect antidote to the reams of speculative nonsense that flows from the pens of people, who should know better, and it also provides basic information, which can be communicated to serious intelligent people, who are always asking palaeontologists and evolutionists about the mystery of the origin of life. This volume ably demonstrates that although the mystery remains, it is much less mysterious than most people imagine; it deserves a place on the shelf of every palaeontologist.'
The Palaeontological Association Circular