Cairns-Smith, Alexander Graham (1931–2016)

Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith

Alexander Cairns-Smith was a Scottish chemist at the University of Glasgow who, in 1982, proposed a radically new theory of the origin of life on Earth1 in which the first organisms were derived from clay. In his view, mineral life-forms, evolved from complex prebiotic clay crystals, and needing neither a reducing atmosphere nor a primordial soup, were the earliest inhabitants of the planet. Subsequently, a "genetic takeover" by organic molecules led to the carbon-based life which exists today. Although given serious consideration by biochemists, Cairns-Smith's theory has not achieved wide acceptance.



1. Cairns-Smith, A. G. Genetic Takeover and the Mineral Origins of Life. New York: Cambridge University Press (1982).