Urey’s Conception of Origins of Life
Harold Clayton Urey (1893–1981) was an American physical chemist who earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1934 for his work on the heavy isotope of hydrogen (deuterium). Urey isolated deuterium by repeatedly distilling a sample of liquid hydrogen and demonstrated the existence of heavy water (HDO). During WWII, Urey contributed to the Manhattan Project by developing a gaseous diffusion method for separating 235U from 238U.
After the war, he moved to academic life where he dedicated to develop cosmochemistry and isotope geology. He firstly speculated that the early terrestrial atmosphere was composed of ammonia, methane, and hydrogen. In 1952, he suggested that experimentation on production of organic compounds from water and methane, in the presence of ultraviolet light or electric discharges, could be most profitable. He insisted on the fact that primitive atmosphere had to be reduced, and for this reason, he criticized Calvin’s experiment on origins of life. In 1953, one of...