Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 344–350 | Cite as

A model for the origin of life

  • Freeman J. Dyson


A simple statistical model is constructed, describing the transition from disorder to order in a population of mutually catalytic molecules undergoing random mutations. The consequences of the model are calculated, and its possible relevance to the problem of the origin of life is discussed. The main conclusion of the analysis is that the model allows populations of several thousand molecular units to make the transition from disorder to order with reasonable probability.

Key words

Origin of life Statistical model 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Biebricher CK, Eigen M, Luce R (1981) Kinetic Analysis of Template-instructed and de novo RNA Synthesis by Qβ Replicase. J Mol Biol 148:391–410Google Scholar
  2. Bresch C, Niesert U, Harnasch D (1980) Hypercycles, Parasites and Packages. J Theor Biol 85:399–405Google Scholar
  3. Crick FHC (1957) On Protein Synthesis. Symp Soc Exp Biol 12:138–163Google Scholar
  4. Fisher RA (1930) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, (New York, Dover Publications reprint, 1958) Chapter 4Google Scholar
  5. Kimura M (1970) Stochastic Processes in Population Genetics, In: Kojima KI (ed) Mathematical Topics in Population Genetics. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 178–209Google Scholar
  6. Kirkwood TBL (1980) Error Propagation in Intracellular Transfer. J Theor Biol 82:363–382Google Scholar
  7. Kuhn H, Waser J (1981) Molecular Self-Organization and the Origin of Life. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 20:500–520Google Scholar
  8. Lohrmann R, Bridson PK, Orgel LE (1980) Efficient Metal-Ion Catalyzed Template-directed Oligonucleotide Synthesis. Science 208:1464–1465Google Scholar
  9. Miller SM, Orgel LE (1974) The Origins of Life on the Earth. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJGoogle Scholar
  10. Niesert U, Harnasch D, Bresch C (1981) Origin of Life between Scylla and Charybdis. J Mol Evol 17:348–353Google Scholar
  11. Weiss A (1981) Replication and Evolution in Inorganic Systems. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 20:850–860Google Scholar
  12. Wright S (1931) Evolution in Mendelian Populations. Genetics 10:97–159Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Freeman J. Dyson
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Advanced StudyPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations