“When ultraviolet light acts on a mixture of water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, a vast variety of organic substances are made, including sugars and some of the materials from which proteins are built up. In the present world, such substances are destroyed by microorganisms.

But before the origins of life they must have accumulated till the primitive oceans reached the consistency of hot dilute soup. Today na organism must trust to luck, skill, or strength to obtain its food. The first precursors of life found food available in considerable quantities, and had no competitors in the struggle for existence.”
J.B.S. Haldane, The Origin of Life, 1929

Does life originate only from life?

Each LillyJar contains approximately 200 ml of solution made of living algal cells cultivated in the studio. We transformed the algal biomass produced into our photobioreactors into a kind of bio-ink and bottled it into these tiny jars.

It’s the ink to draw PaperLillies.
It’s the trigger to propose creative uses of algal biomass.
It’s the matter to speculate on the brevity of human path compared to that of bacteria.
It’s something very similar to the Primordial Soup where it all began.

In 1929 British scientist J. B. S. Haldane wrote a paper called “The Origins of Life” where he describes a very convincing hypothesis on the bio-chemical origins of life on Planet Earth approximately 4 Billions years ago. Haldane was a passionate scholar that in his late life  moved to India so that he could stop wearing socks, become vegetarian and study Hinduism as a form of practice of freedom. During his previous life as an academic in Oxford, in 1929 when he was in his mid thirties, one of his most successful achievements was the introduction of the Primordial Soup Theory. Haldane’ envisioned the Oceans of a young Planet Earth as a quite dense water based solution in which inorganic chemical compounds coming from outer space during the formation of the planet began to react together under the influence of solar light and heating to give birth to early organic compounds, RNA molecules and finally DNA and the first living cells.

In 1924, 30 years old soviet biochemist Alexander Oparin independently developed a similar theory based on the idea of a dense liquid ocean as the cradle of a series of chemical transformations that eventually created the first living cells from carbonated mud. He manages to demonstrate how  the ancient cosmogonic ideas on spontaneous generation of life from non-living matter can be scientifically consistent.

Both theories are strongly speculative, but very fascinating and rely as the basis of all contemporary ideas on the origins of life. The fact that more complex forms of life derive from simpler original organisms seems easy to understand today, and we don’t have big troubles in thinking that humans derive from apes, and that at the very beginning of the chain we find mono-cellular algae.

But a question still open: did early life really originated from non-living chemical compounds arrived on Earth from space during its formation, or did it began from already living matter coming from outer space in a lethargic state? And, if so, where and how did life originated?

It’s all about Creation Myths.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Cosmic egg, a God’s affair, a Pansermatic event or the self organisation of a Primordial chaos. What is important is the human instinctive attitude of trying to acknowledge its origins in order to make sense.

Of everything.


Haldane paper
A critical reading of Haldane-s paper by French science historian Stéphane Tirard
Oparin’s Origins of Life

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