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Graham Cairns-Smith

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Title: Graham Cairns-Smith  
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Subject: Molecular biologists, Irreducible complexity, Clay, Ancient astronaut hypothesis, Abiogenesis
Collection: 1931 Births, Living People, Molecular Biologists
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Graham Cairns-Smith

Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith (born 1931) is an organic chemist and molecular biologist at the University of Glasgow. He is most famous for his controversial 1985 book, Seven Clues to the Origin of Life.

The book popularized a hypothesis he began to develop in the mid-1960s—that self-replication of clay crystals in solution might provide a simple intermediate step between biologically inert matter and organic life. He inspired other ideas about chemical evolution, including the Miller–Urey experiment and the RNA World, all of which are hypotheses that have greatly helped in explaining the origin of life.

Cairns-Smith also published on the evolution of consciousness, in Evolving the Mind (1996), favoring a role for quantum mechanics in human thought.[1]


  • Clay hypothesis 1
  • Selected publications 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Clay hypothesis

The clay hypothesis suggests how biologically inert matter helped the evolution of early life forms:

There follows a process of natural selection for clay crystals that trap certain forms of catalysed by the surface properties of silicates. When complex molecules perform a "genetic takeover" from their clay "vehicle", become an independent locus of replication – an evolutionary moment that might be understood as the first exaptation.

Selected publications

  • Cairns-Smith, Alexander Graham (2009), "An approach to a blueprint for a primitive organism", in Waddington, C. H., The Origin of Life: Towards a Theoretical Biology 1, Aldine Transaction, pp. 57–66, .  
  • Cairns-Smith, Alexander Graham (1987), Genetic Takeover and the Mineral Origins of Life, CambridgeUP, (Paperback reprint of original 1982 edition.)  
  • Cairns-Smith, Alexander Graham (1990), Seven Clues to the Origin of Life, CambridgeUP, (Canto reprint of the original 1986 edition)  
  • Cairns-Smith, Alexander Graham (1996), Evolving the Mind: On the Nature of Matter and the Origin of Consciousness, CambridgeUP,  

See also


  1. ^ Dennett, Daniel (1996). "Evolving the Mind"Quantum Incoherence: Review of Cairns-Smith, .  

External links

  • Academic website, University of Glasgow
  • A bibliography of Cairns-Smith's origins of life publications,
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