Experimental approach to the origin of life
Urey and Miller (1953), paved way for understanding the possible synthesis of organic compounds that led to the appearance of living organisms is depicted in the Fig. 6.1. In their experiment, a mixture of gases was allowed to circulate over electric discharge from an tungsten electrode. A small flask was kept boiling and the steam emanating from it was made to mix with the mixture of gases (ammonia, methane and hydrogen) in the large chamber that was connected to the boiling water. The steam condensed to form water which ran down the ‘U’ tube. Experiment was conducted continuously for a week and the liquid was analysed. Glycine, alanine, beta alanine and aspartic acid were identified. Thus Miller’s experiments had an insight as to the possibility of abiogenetic synthesis of large amount of variety of organic compounds in nature from a mixture of sample gases in which the only source of carbon was methane. Later in similar experiments, formation of all types of amino acids, and nitrogen bases were noticed.