Imagining Inorganic Life: Crystalline Aliens in Science and Fiction
Since the development of the cell was described in analogy to crystallization in the nineteenth century, biologists blurred the boundaries between the living and the non-living by pointing out the resemblance of certain crystalline structures to the structures of living cells. Scientists and writers including F.E. Reynolds, H.G. Wells and M. Benedikt advanced the idea of inorganic, crystalline life forms, which could even sustain the extreme demands of the sun’s environment. Speculations about crystalline life on other planets were a continuation of the biologists’ experiments into the realm of the imagination. This chapter examines how some of the contributions to this discussion redefined the intricate relationship between the organic and the non-organic, and the living and the non-living.