Are there any books or sites that detail, step-by-step, the evolution of the first single-celled organisms (bacteria, archaea) from a Miller-Urey-like beginning? That is, assumes only amino acids, then from there to self-replicating proteins, until culminating in the formation of a basic cell?


3 Answers 3


Origin of Life: Chemical Approach is an edited volume by Piet Herdewijn and M. Volkan Kisakürek.

here is the book's description from the webpage:

Dedicated to the fond memory of two great pioneers of this science, Leslie E. Orgel and Stanley L. Miller, this compilation of reviews and original manuscripts provides an overview of the current state of the art, written by some of the eminent "players" in this creative domain of "explorative chemistry". Since we are still far from finding a definitive answer to the most fundamental of questions in science, "chemistry" here is defined in its broadest sense. It is against this background that the contributions cover such a wide range of theories, including chemistry and selection, evolution of the pioneer organism, chemical aspects of synthetic biology, ribozyme catalysis of metabolism in the RNA world, intractable mixtures and the origin of life, the chemical etiology of nucleic acids, interstellar amino acids, and even the chemistry that preceded life's origin.

  • $\begingroup$ Pricy, but it's on order. Will let you know if it fits the bill. $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2011 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Cool. I have the luxury of being at university with a pretty good library but I definitely found it useful for teaching origin of life concepts in a fairly robust manner. $\endgroup$
    – DQdlM
    Dec 16, 2011 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ @C.LawrenceWenham Did it fit the bill? $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    May 29, 2013 at 23:44

I quite like the account given in Early evolution without a tree of life, where alkaline hydrothermal vents (like "Lost City") are theorized to have formed pre-biotic compartments with a proton gradient (i.e. an energy source) from which cells could have evolved.


From a more geology-oriented perspective:

Robert M Hazen (2007) - Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins

Noam Lahav (1999)- Biogenesis: Theories of Life's Origin

J William Schopf (2001) - Cradle of Life

I have watched Hazen's nice "Origins of Life" DVD/Video Course. There he says that the Miller-Urey stuff has gotten less popular. Their atmosphere contains too much Nitrogen, Hydrogen and focuses on the water surface and the open water body.

More recent research points to a more CO2-rich atmosphere, and that life evolved deeper in hot water at the bottom of the ocean.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 - Hazen's course is an excellent introduction. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2012 at 12:25

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