Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 131–180

Creating a Cosmic Discipline: The Crystallization and Consolidation of Exobiology, 1957–1973

  • James E. Strick

DOI: 10.1023/B:HIST.0000020279.73895.f2

Cite this article as:
Strick, J.E. Journal of the History of Biology (2004) 37: 131. doi:10.1023/B:HIST.0000020279.73895.f2


The new discipline of exobiology formed fromthe intertwining of origin of life researchwith the search for life or its building blockson other planets, from 1957–1973. The fieldwas inherently highly interdisciplinary, yet itcoalesced very quickly and was responsible inits first twenty years for numerous importantcontributions to twentieth century life scienceand planetary sciences such as climatology, thestudy of mass extinctions, etc. NASA played avery important role in catalyzing the rapidconsolidation of exobiology, both throughresearch grants and through sponsored meetingsthat overcame disciplinary boundaries, bringingtogether scientists from diverse backgrounds. The presence of a handful of prominent seniorscientists such as Joshua Lederberg, MelvinCalvin and Norman Horowitz helped gaincredibility for exobiology, in the face ofcriticism and competition from existing lifesciences disciplines. Tensions within theexobiology research community and betweenNASA-funded science and the academic researchcommunity are explored, as are such milestonesof discipline formation as journals andprofessional societies.

abiogenesisarchaeaastrobiologydiscipline formationendosymbiosisexobiologyextraterrestrial lifemicrospheresNASAorigin of lifeplanetary scienceproteinoids

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Strick
    • 1
  1. 1.Science, Technology and Society ProgramFranklin and Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA