A Short History of the Investigation of the Origin of the Terrestrial Biosphere's Homochirality (Some Personal Remarks, Recalling Historical Milestones)
Author(s)Thiemann , Wolfram Hans-Peter
Contributor(s)University of Bremen
[ CHIM.THEO ] Chemical Sciences/Theoretical and/or physical chemistry
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A description of the history of the investigation of the origins of homochirality in our terrestrial biosphere over the last half decade is given here. It tells about the moment, when the discovery of the hitherto rather untold puzzle of the fact that biology is so biassed in the structure of its chemical elements, in stark contrast to the laboratory experience, that whenever a (strictly abiotic) synthesis of the basic chemicals making up biology was undertaken– like in particular amino acids and sugars – it always resulted in the production of a racemic (exact 1:1) mix of left-and right-handed molecules. Is it due to an accident (" Was God a lefthander? "), is it a physical law, and is it really necessary that living nature had to consist exclusively of the left-(or the right-) handed basic molecules to grow spontaneously from symmetric simple molecules during the evolution up to the subtle complex homochiral structures making up biochemistry today? The essay attempts to give credit to some of the pioneers of this scientific research, who quite often have been overlooked in spite of their essential contribution to the field. The importance of the tool of an analysis of homochirality in probing for traces of life beyond Earth is underlined and supports a further systematic investigation on extraterrestrial bodies in future space missions.