An Early History from Buffon to Oparin

Authored by: Stéphane Tirard

Handbook of Astrobiology

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138065123
eBook ISBN: 9781315159966
Adobe ISBN:


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The issue of the origin of life as a scientific matter dates back to the eighteenth century. For a very long period, the beginning of life on Earth was only a part of cosmogonies and religious creationist dogmas. With the first scientific revolution, the place of Earth in the universe, and therefore the place of humans in the universe, was completely reconsidered in scientific terms. The Copernican Revolution, which placed the Sun at the center of the solar system, was the first such reconsideration. Moreover, theories, such as Descartes’, provoked a new thought on the history of the formation of Earth. However, the issue of the origin of life was neglected for a long time because of the fixist conceptions of the living beings. Since the eighteenth century, the primordial beginnings of life on Earth became a central issue in life sciences. This chapter focuses on this emergence, from the Enlightenment, notably represented by Buffon, to the interwar period, focusing on Oparin and Haldane. It shows how it became intrinsic to the general issue of the theories of the evolution of living beings.

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