Leslie Orgel

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Leslie Eleazer Orgel
Born(1927-01-12)12 January 1927
Died27 October 2007(2007-10-27) (aged 80)
NationalityFlag of the United Kingdom.svg British
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
California Institute of Technology
University of Chicago
Known forOrgel diagram
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
University of Cambridge

Leslie Eleazer Orgel FRS (12 January 1927 – 27 October 2007) was a British chemist.

Born in London, Orgel received his B.A. and Ph.D in chemistry at Magdalen College, Oxford University.

He was one of the first people to see, in April 1953, Crick and Watson's model of DNA: at the time he worked at Oxford University's Chemistry Department.[1]

In 1964 Orgel was appointed Senior Fellow and Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he directed the Chemical Evolution Laboratory. He was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and he was one of five principal investigators in the NASA-sponsored NSCORT program in exobiology. Orgel also participated in NASA's Viking Mars Lander Program as a member of the Molecular Analysis Team that designed the gas chromatography mass spectrometer instrument that robots took to the planet Mars.

Orgel’s lab came across an economical way to make cytarabine, a compound that is one of today’s most commonly used anti-cancer agents.

During the 1970s, Orgel suggested reconsidering the panspermia hypothesis, according to which the earliest forms of life on earth did not originate here, but arrived from outer space with meteorites.

Together with Stanley Miller, Orgel also suggested that peptide nucleic acids – rather than ribonucleic acids – constituted the first pre-biotic systems capable of self-replication on early Earth.

His name is popularly known because of Orgel's rules, credited to him, particularly Orgel's Second Rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are".

In his book The Origins of Life, Orgel coined the concept of specified complexity, to describe the criterion by which living organisms are distinguished from non-living matter. He published over three hundred articles in his research areas.

Orgel died of cancer on 27 October 2007 at the San Diego Hospice & Palliative Care in San Diego, California.

Awards[change | change source]

Publications[change | change source]

  • Leslie E. Orgel, An introduction to transition-metal chemistry: the ligand field theory. 1961
  • Leslie E. Orgel, The origins of life: molecules and natural selection. 1973
  • Leslie E. Orgel and Stanley L. Miller, The origins of life on the Earth. 1974

References[change | change source]

  1. Olby, Robert, Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2009, Chapter 10, p. 181 ISBN 978-0-87969-798-3