Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 221–227 | Cite as

Carbonaceous chondrites and the origin of life

  • Hyman Hartman
  • Michael A. Sweeney
  • Michael A. Kropp
  • John S. Lewis


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.


Methanol Ammonium Clay Organic Matter Organic Chemistry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Kerridge, J. (1983)Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 64, 186.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bunch, T. E., Chang, S. (1980)Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 44, 1543.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Studier, M. H., Hayatsu, R., Anders E. (1968)Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 18, 151.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nagy, B. (1975) Carbonaceous Meteorites. Elsevier.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Robert, F., Epstein, S. (1982)Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 46, 81.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Becker, R. H., Epstein, S. (1982)Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 46, 97.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Anders, E., Hayatsu, R., Studier, M. H. (1973)Science 182, 781.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hartman, H. (1975)H. Mol. Evol. 4, 359.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Anders, E. (1963). Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci.108, 514.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bostrom, K., Fredriksson, K. (1966)Smithsonian Misc. Collect. 151, 3.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lewis, J. S. (1967)Earth Planet. Sci. Letters 2, 29.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lewis, J. S., Krouse, H. R. (1969)Earth Planet. Sci. Letters 5, 425.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jones, T. D., Lebofsky, L. S., Lewis, J. S., Marley, M. S. (1990)Icarus 88, 172.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lewis, J. S., Prinn, R. G. (1980)Astrophys. J. 238, 357.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pisani, F. (1864).C. R. Hebd. Seances Acad. Sci 59, 132.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Schramm, L. S., Brownlee, D. E., Wheelock, M. M. (1989)Meteoritics 24, 99.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Rietmeijer, F. J. M. (1990)Meteoritics 25, 209.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Shoemaker, E. M., Williams, J. G., Helin, E. F., Wolfe, R. F. (1979). Asteroids, Ed. T. Gehrels, Univ. of Arizona Press, Tucson, 253.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cronin, J. R., Pizzarello, S. (1990).Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 54, 2859.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Yuen, G., Blair, N., Des Marais, D., Chang, S. (1984)Nature 307, 252.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kurbanov, M. A., Klapishevskaya, Z. B., Timofeev, V. D., Morisov, E. A., Dzantiev, B. G., Dobrovol'skii, S. P., Zakharova, I. V. (1977)Khim. Vys. Energ. 11 (1, 83.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lee, T. (1979)Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 17, 1591.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Getoff, N. G. (1962)Int. J. Appl. Radiat. Isotop. 13, 205.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lewis, J. S., Prinn, R. G. (1980)Astrophys. J. 238, 357.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Siffert, B. (1978), Int. Clay Conf., Eds. M. Mortland and V. Farmer, Elsevier, 337.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Paschke, R., Chang, R. W. H., Young, D. (1957)Science 125, 681.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Epstein, S., Krishnamurthy, R. V., Cronin, J. R., Pizzarello, S., Yuen, G. U. (1987)Nature 326, 477.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Fomenkova, M. N., Kerridge, J. F., Marti, K., McFadden, L.-A. (1992)Science 258, 266.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hyman Hartman
    • 1
  • Michael A. Sweeney
    • 2
  • Michael A. Kropp
    • 2
  • John S. Lewis
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of Santa ClaraSanta Clara
  3. 3.Lunar and Planetary LaboratoryUniversity of ArizonaTucson

Personalised recommendations