Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Calvin’s Conception of Origins of Life

  • Stephane Tirard
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_216-3


Melvin Calvin (1911–1997) was an American biochemist, who discovered, with Andrew Alm Benson (1917–), the cycle of reactions in the obscure phase of photosynthesis during the 1940s (Calvin-Benson cycle). Calvin obtained the Nobel Prize in 1961 for this discovery.

In 1951, Calvin published one of the first works in prebiotic chemistry. He reduced carbon dioxide in aqueous solution, by ionizing radiation, to formic acid.

In 1953, Harold Clayton Urey (1893–1981) rejected this result because of the presence of CO2. Urey was in favor of a reductive primitive atmosphere without CO2. However, Calvin maintained his interest for origins of life during the rest of his career and published his main book on this topic in 1969 (Molecular Evolution towards the Origin of Living Systems on Earth and Elsewhere).

See Also


Aqueous Solution Carbon Dioxide Formic Acid Bioorganic Chemistry Molecular Evolution 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des Sciences et des Techniques de NantesCentre François Viète d’Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques EA 1161NantesFrance