Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth
The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere

$49.99 (P)

Award Winner
  • Date Published: June 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107121881

$ 49.99 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Uniting the conceptual foundations of the physical sciences and biology, this groundbreaking multidisciplinary book explores the origin of life as a planetary process. Combining geology, geochemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, evolution and statistical physics to create an inclusive picture of the living state, the authors develop the argument that the emergence of life was a necessary cascade of non-equilibrium phase transitions that opened new channels for chemical energy flow on Earth. This full colour and logically structured book introduces the main areas of significance and provides a well-ordered and accessible introduction to multiple literatures outside the confines of disciplinary specializations, as well as including an extensive bibliography to provide context and further reading. For researchers, professionals entering the field or specialists looking for a coherent overview, this text brings together diverse perspectives to form a unified picture of the origin of life and the ongoing organization of the biosphere.

    • The only book that combines high-level perspectives from geochemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and physics to form an inclusive picture of the origin of life
    • Offers a view of the nature of the living state that is radically different from the traditional scientific view of life as a property of organisms
    • Includes the only conceptually modern treatment of thermodynamic ideas directed towards the origin of life and provides a free standing introduction to these ideas
    Read more


    • Honourable Mention, 2017 PROSE Award for Chemistry and Physics

    Reviews & endorsements

    "… the most significant book on the origin of life hitherto written."
    Walter Fontana, Harvard Medical School

    "This is a truly unusual work of scholarship, which offers both novel perspectives on a huge range of disciplines and a model of scientific synthesis. This is a remarkable, and remarkably impressive, book."
    Cosma Shalizi, Carnegie Mellon University

    "… an exceptionally important, highly original, unique scientific contribution …"
    Elbert Branscomb, University of Illinois

    'The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth reads more like a well-executed textbook, one that covers much of what you need to know to jump in and start researching the origins of life. … For physicists wishing to dive headfirst into the origin-of-life field, this book is a great place to start … the book is not merely a compendium of existing knowledge; it offers genuinely new perspectives. [The authors] turn scientists' conventional origin stories on their heads. Rather than focus strictly on the chemical origin of life, they regard life as a planetary process … they introduce the idea of life as a 'fourth geosphere' that complements the other three: the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. In so doing, they make the problem of the origin of life one that may be tractable for physicists, and they lay out a possible framework for how to do it.' Sara I. Walker, Physics Today

    'For those interested in an easy-to-follow introduction to this fascinating topic …' Graham Godfrey, The Biologist

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107121881
    • length: 691 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 183 x 35 mm
    • weight: 1.51kg
    • contains: 64 colour illus. 4 maps 5 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. The planetary scope of biogenesis
    2. Life on Earth today
    3. The geochemical context for the biosphere
    4. The architecture of metabolism
    5. Higher-level structures
    6. Emergence of the biosphere
    7. The phase transition paradigm for emergence
    8. The nature of the living state
    Epilogue. References

  • Authors

    Eric Smith, Tokyo Institute of Technology
    Eric Smith is External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, Research Professor at George Mason University and Principle Investigator at the Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology. He is a physicist specializing in the origin of life, non-equilibrium systems, economics and the evolution of human languages.

    Harold J. Morowitz, George Mason University, Virginia
    Harold J. Morowitz is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University. He was founding director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, and is Chairman Emeritus of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute.


    • Honourable Mention, 2017 PROSE Award for Chemistry and Physics

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.