Short works

Books : reviews

David W. Deamer, Gail R. Fleischaker.
Origins of Life: the central concepts.
Jones and Bertlett. 1994

This annotated collection of papers on the origins of life provides easy access to the original work in this field for specialists, the curious layman, and students alike. The editors’ goal was to weave the principal threads of contemporary research from the various historical antecedents. They have chosen papers with both scientific and historical significance, not simply those that reflect the established views of the day. The readings are organized into six topical areas and arranged chronologically within each group. This book may be used as a supplement to courses in cell biology, chemistry, evolution, system theory, and history and philosophy of science, or as a primary text for a course on the origins of life.

The volume editors, David W. Deamer and Gail R. Fleischaker, are, respectively, experimentalist and theorist active in the origins-of-life field. Their commentary explores the theoretical issues underlying the broader topics and evaluates the historical impact of each paper.

Steen Rasmussen, Mark A. Bedau, Liaohai Chen, David W. Deamer, David C. Krakauer, Norman H. Packard, Peter F. Stadler.
Protocells: bridging nonliving and living matter.
MIT Press. 2009

Protocells offers a comprehensive resource on current attempts to create simple forms of life from scratch in the laboratory. These minimal versions of cells are entities with lifelike properties created from nonliving materials; the book provides in-depth investigations of processes at the interface between nonliving and living matter. Chapters by experts in the field put this state-of-the-art research in the context of theory, laboratory work, and computer simulations on the components and properties of protocells. The book also provides perspectives on research in related areas and such broader societal issues as commercial applications and ethical considerations.

The book covers all major scientific approaches to creating minimal life, both in the laboratory and in simulation. It emphasizes the bottom-up view of physicists, chemists, and material scientists but also includes the molecular biologists top-down approach and the origin-of-ljfe perspective. Ihe capacity to engineer living technology could have a enormous socio-economic impact and could bring both good and ill. Protocells promises to be the essential reference for research on bottom-up assembly of life and living technology for years to come.

David W. Deamer.
Assembling Life: how can life begin on Earth and other habitable planets?.
OUP. 2019