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The Outer Reaches of Life


  • 18 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 288 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.598 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 576
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: QR100.9 .P67 1994
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Extreme environments--Microbiology

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521440103 | ISBN-10: 0521440106)

DOI: 10.2277/0521440106

  • Published May 1994

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 (Stock level updated: 17:00 GMT, 08 October 2015)


John Postgate, one of Britain's leading microbiologists, uses the variegated life-styles of microbes to illustrate the enormous potential of life on this planet. Since the dawn of life on Earth, the world has been gradually transformed by living things into a comfortable home for plants, animals and ourselves. But many harsh and seemingly inhospitable places remain, and it is the inhabitants of such places, mainly invisible microbes, that reveal the remarkable potential and resilience of life. How do microbes survive, even flourish, in superheated water or supercooled brine; at enormous pressures; without air; amid poisons? And what part do, and did, they play in making the Earth hospitable? Illustrated by charming vignettes, and free of technical language and diagrams, The Outer Reaches of Life provides new clues to the origin and evolution of terrestrial life and offers a glimpse of how life might have established itself elsewhere in the universe.

• Shows how our life depends on and has been tranformed by the invisible world of microbes • Are microbes immortal and will they be found elsewhere in the universe? • This superbly written account provides a series of self-contained essays to answer these and many other questions • By the author of the acclaimed Microbes and Man which has sold 45,000 copies in three editions (Third Edition, Cambridge 1992)


1. Microbes and terrestrial life; 2. Some like it hot; 3. Cool, Man, cool; 4. The big squeeze; 5. Very salty indeed; 6. Corrosive and slippery places; 7. Life without oxygen; 8. Living on minerals; 9. Exotic menus; 10. Of wraiths and ghosts; 11. The inertness of nitrogen; 12. Getting about; 13. Microsensors; 14. A private space; 15. Company; 16. Immortality and the big sleep; 17. Readjustment; 18. Life's outer reaches.


'… top-class popular scientific writing ' Science and Public Affairs

'This book is a delight. It is written for the general public in that no prior scientific knowledge has been assumed … Underneath the non-technical language and the humour, we are allowed to see current microbiology displayed and interpreted by one of its most experienced and erudite students.' Chris Thurston, SGM Quarterly

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