Short works

Books : reviews

Pier Luigi Luisi.
The Emergence of Life: from chemical origins to synthetic biology.
CUP. 2006

The origin of life from inert chemical compounds has been the focus of much research for decades, both experimentally and philosophically. Luisi takes the reader through the consecutive stages from prebiotic chemistry to synthetic biology, uniquely combining both approaches. This book presents a systematic course, discussing the successive stages of self-organization, emergence, self-replication, autopoiesis, synthetic compartments, and construction of cellular models, in order to demonstrate the spontaneous increase in complexity from inanimate matter to the first cellular life forms. A chapter is dedicated to each of these steps, using a number of synthetic and biological examples. The theory of autopoiesis leads in to the idea of compartments, which is discussed with an emphasis on vesicles to explain the synthetic biology of cellular systems, as well as describing attempts to generate minimal cellular life within the laboratory. The end-of-chapter review questions make this book will appeal to graduate students and to academics researching the origin of life and related areas such as biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics, and natural sciences.

Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi.
The Systems View of Life: a unifying vision.
CUP. 2014

Over the past 30 years, a new systemic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. New emphasis has been given to complexity, networks, and patterns of organization leading to a novel kind of “systemic” thinking.

This volume integrates the ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, the authors examine the appearance of key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution. The implications of the systems view of life for health care, management, and our global ecological and economic crises are also discussed.

Written primarily for undergraduates, it is also essential reading for graduate students and researchers interested in understanding the new systemic conception of life and its implications for a broad range of professions from economics and politics to medicine, psychology, and law.