Is there life on other planets? How similar is extraterrestrial life to life on earth? These questions, until recently confined to the pages of science fiction books, are now the legitimate subject matter of extensive scientific research. Recent discoveries of extrasolar planets, life under extreme conditions, and possible life on other celestial bodies have heightened public interest on the origin of life
For hundreds of years, however, the origin of life was thought to be well understood and did not pose any problems to either naturalists and laypersons. Doubts began to arise with the growth of biological knowledge, and the question remained a mystery, especially at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Only in the last decades has the emergence of life on earth entered the realm of investigation as a scientific problem.
In The Origin of Life on Earth, Iris Fry traces these theoretical developments, including a detailed discussion of current lines of research devoted to the origin of life. The book's first part offers an overview of the main ideas on the origin of life as they have developed from antiquity until the present century. The second part explores the major prevailing and often contentious scientific theories that are now fueling the origin-of-life debate within and beyond the scientific community. Coming full circle, Fry returns to the age-old question: Is there life beyond Earth? and examines the most recent scientific discoveries that suggest possible life forms elsewhere in the universe, particularly on Mars.