Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 221–227

Carbonaceous chondrites and the origin of life


  • Hyman Hartman
    • Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of California
  • Michael A. Sweeney
    • Department of ChemistryUniversity of Santa Clara
  • Michael A. Kropp
    • Department of ChemistryUniversity of Santa Clara
  • John S. Lewis
    • Lunar and Planetary LaboratoryUniversity of Arizona

DOI: 10.1007/BF01581900

Cite this article as:
Hartman, H., Sweeney, M.A., Kropp, M.A. et al. Origins Life Evol Biosphere (1993) 23: 221. doi:10.1007/BF01581900


Organic matter in carbonaceous chondrites can be separated into three fractions. The first component, the fraction that is insoluble in chloroform and methanol, has a part which is of interstellar origin (1). The other two fractions (chloroform-soluble hydrocarbons and methanol-soluble polar organics) are hypothesized to have been synthesized on a planetoid body (2). We propose that the polar organics, i.e., amino acids, were synthesized close to its surface by the radiolysis of hydrocarbons and ammonium carbonate in a liquid water environment. Some hydrocarbons may have been synthesized by a Fischer-Tropsch mechanism (3) in the interior of the body. Ferrous ion acted as a protection against back reactions. The simultaneous synthesis of iron-rich clays with the polar organics may be indicative of events related to the origin of life on Earth.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993