Description: How did life come to be on the surface of the earth? Darwin himself recognized that his basic idea of evolution by variation and natural selection must be a continuous process extending backward in time through that period in which the first living things arose and into the period of 'Chemical Evolution' which preceded it. We are approaching the examination of these events by two routes. One is to seek for evidence in the ancient rocks of the earth which were laid down prior to that time in which organisms capable of leaving their skeletons in the rocks to be fossilized were in existence. This period is sometime prior to approximately 600 million years ago. The earth is believed to have taken its present form approximately 4700 million years ago. We have found in rocks whose age is about 1000 million years certain organic molecules which are closely related to the green pigment of plants, chlorophyll. This seems to establish that green plants were already fluorishing prior to that time. We have now found in rocks of still greater age, namely, 2500 million years, the same kinds of molecules mentioned above which can be attributed to the presence of living organisms. If these molecules are as old as the rocks, we have thus shortened the time available for the generation of the complex biosynthetic sequences which give rise to these specific hydrocarbons (polyisoprenoids) to less than 2000 million years.
Date: June 1, 1965
Creator: Calvin, Melvin
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