Philosophical Society of Washington

The 62nd Joseph Henry Lecture:

Origin, Evolution, and Distribution of Life in the Universe

Cyril Ponnamperuma
Director, Laboratory of Chemical Evolution, University of Maryland

2013th Meeting Abstract
Friday, May 14, 1993 at 8:30 PM


Modern scientific thinking concludes that life is a result of an evolutionary process in the universe. Sources of energy acting on the primitive atmosphere are believed to have produced nucleic acids and proteins which are the bases of all life on earth. Analysis of meteorites and the interstellar medium has revealed an array of organic molecules. Chemical evolution which could have led to life on earth may therefore be described as a universal process. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has become part of the scientific endeavor.

About the Author:

The 62nd Joseph Henry Lecturer is Cyril Ponnamperuma, Director, Laboratory of Chemical Evolution, University of Maryland. Mr. Ponnamperuma received his Bachelor of Science at Birkbeck College, University of London and his doctorate at the University of California. He became NASA's Chief of the Chemical Evolution Branch and was selected as Principal Investigator for organic analysis in the Apollo program. He has authored over 400 publications and books, including the Origin of Life and served as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal Origin of Life. In 1991, he was awarded the first Distinguished International Science Award from the University of Maryland.

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