About the Origins of Life Initiative
People have wondered about and debated for thousands of years how life on Earth began, asking seemingly unanswerable questions throughout recorded history. How did life originate and evolve? Is there life on Mars?
Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? What is life's future direction? Today, the question of the origins of life in the universe remains one of humankind's most compelling mysteries. However, new answers may be experimentally accessible, thanks to combined advances in biology, chemistry, genetics, geology, and astronomy.
Approaching a question that has dominated much of human history requires the combined effort of most of science at the University. At Harvard, astronomers search for undiscovered planets that may be hospitable to life; planetary astrophysicists study how planets form and survive; geochemists analyze sedimentary rocks on Earth and Mars to uncover planetary processes and environmental changes throughout history; chemists and chemical biologists consider the simple molecules on primitive planets and focus on the route to assemble complex self-replicating molecules; and molecular biologists concentrate on the ultimate leap -- how biological evolution can emerge from the chemistry.