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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Cyril Ponnamperuma Quotes

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Cyril Ponnamperuma
(16 Oct 1923 - 20 Dec 1994)

Ceylonese-American biochemist and exobiologist , an internationally recognized researcher on the origins of life on Earth. He was also active in the growing field of exobiology, the study of possible extraterrestrial life and studied lunar soil and meteorites.


Science Quotes by Cyril Ponnamperuma (14 quotes)

Colorized photo Cyril Ponnamperuma in lab coat, in lab, upper body, facing half-right, glass container held up to view closely
Cyril Ponnamperuma analyzing a moon sample at NASA
credit: colorization by palette.fm (source)
A working definition of life, … could [be] in terms of a large molecule made up of carbon compounds that can replicate, or make copies of itself, and metabolize food and energy…: macromolecule, metabolism, replication.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
From interview, 'The Seeds of Life', in The Omni Interviews (1984), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Carbon (68)  |  Compound (117)  |  Definition (238)  |  Energy (373)  |  Food (213)  |  Large (398)  |  Life (1870)  |  Macromolecule (3)  |  Metabolism (15)  |  Molecule (185)  |  Replication (10)  |  Term (357)  |  Terms (184)  |  Thing (1914)

Astronomers tell us that there are about 1023 stars in the universe. That’s a meaningful number to chemists—an Avogadro number of potential solar systems of which between 1 and 50 percent are estimated to have planets. … Planets are plentiful—and from this fact we can begin our exploration of how life might have evolved on any one of them.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Cosmochemistry The Earliest Evolution', The Science Teacher (Oct 1983), 50, No. 7, 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Astronomer (97)  |  Chemist (169)  |  Evolution (635)  |  Exploration (161)  |  Life (1870)  |  Meaningful (19)  |  Number (710)  |  Planet (402)  |  Plentiful (3)  |  Potential (75)  |  Solar Systems (5)  |  Star (460)  |  Universe (900)

Darwinian evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology. But if we accept Darwin’s mechanism for changes in living things, we must postulate another prebiotic form of evolution, which may be described as chemical evolution.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Cosmochemistry The Earliest Evolution', The Science Teacher (Oct 1983), 50, No. 7, 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (232)  |  Change (639)  |  Chemical Evolution (2)  |  Cornerstone (8)  |  Charles Darwin (322)  |  Describe (132)  |  Evolution (635)  |  Form (976)  |  Living Things (8)  |  Mechanism (102)  |  Modern (402)  |  Postulate (42)

Eventually man has to get there [Mars] because we will never be satisfied with unmanned exploration.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Interview: Cyril Ponnamperuma', Space World (1989), 5, 25.
Science quotes on:  |  Eventually (64)  |  Exploration (161)  |  Man (2252)  |  Mars (47)  |  Never (1089)  |  Planet (402)  |  Satisfied (23)  |  Will (2350)

If the laws of physics and chemistry are universal, we can extrapolate the events of Earth’s chemical evolution to other planets and other stars and thus argue for the possibility of life beyond Earth.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Cosmochemistry The Earliest Evolution', The Science Teacher (Oct 1983), 50, No. 7, 36.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemical Evolution (2)  |  Chemistry (376)  |  Earth (1076)  |  Extrapolate (3)  |  Extraterrestrial (6)  |  Law (913)  |  Life (1870)  |  Physics (564)  |  Planet (402)  |  Possibility (172)  |  Star (460)  |  Universal (198)

If there is life elsewhere in the universe, chemically speaking, it would be very similar to what we have on earth.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
Speaking at a 1986 Fall Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Anaheim, California, as quoted and cited in J. Raloff, 'Is There a Cosmic Chemistry of Life?', Science News (20 Sep 1986), 130, No. 12, 182.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemistry (376)  |  Earth (1076)  |  Extraterrestrial Life (20)  |  Life (1870)  |  Similar (36)  |  Speaking (118)  |  Universe (900)

Recently, we’ve reported that we have made all five bases, the compounds that spell out the instructions for all life and are a part of the nucleic acids, RNA and DNA. Not only did we make all five bases but we found them in a meteorite! So that these two things coming together really assure us that the molecules necessary for life can be found in the absence of life. This was the biggest stumbling block.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In Space World (1985), 5, 25.
Science quotes on:  |  Absence (21)  |  Acid (83)  |  Base (120)  |  Coming (114)  |  Compound (117)  |  DNA (81)  |  Instruction (101)  |  Life (1870)  |  Meteorite (9)  |  Molecule (185)  |  Necessary (370)  |  Nucleic Acid (23)  |  Origin Of Life (37)  |  RNA (5)  |  Stumbling Block (6)  |  Thing (1914)  |  Together (392)  |  Two (936)

Scientists are human—they're as biased as any other group. But they do have one great advantage in that science is a self-correcting process.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In Pamela Weintraub (Ed.), The OMNI Interviews (1984), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Advantage (144)  |  Bias (22)  |  Do (1905)  |  Great (1610)  |  Group (83)  |  Human (1512)  |  Other (2233)  |  Process (439)  |  Scientist (881)  |  Self (268)  |  Self-Correcting (5)

The division between life and nonlife is perhaps an artificial one.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
Speaking at an international meeting on the origins of life, quoted in E. Eckholm, 'Search for the Origins is Widening', International Herald Tribune (7 Jul 1986). As cited in Stuart R. Hameroff, Ultimate Computing: Biomolecular Consciousness and Nanotechnology (1987), 57.
Science quotes on:  |  Artificial (38)  |  Biology (232)  |  Division (67)  |  Life (1870)  |  Nonlife (2)

The essential molecule of reproduction, DNA, … is composed of only four nitrogen bases (adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine), the sugar deoxyribose, and a phosphate. DNA’s intermediary, RNA, differs only by the substitution of the sugar ribose for deoxyribose and the nitrogen base uracil for thymine. The proteins of living organisms are made with a mere 20 amino acids, all arranged in a “left-handed” configuration. Taking into account all 28 building blocks, or “letters” (20 amino acids, five bases, two sugars, and one phosphate), the message is clear: With such a limited alphabet, all life must have had a common chemical origin.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Cosmochemistry The Earliest Evolution', The Science Teacher (Oct 1983), 50, No. 7, 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (195)  |  Adenine (6)  |  Alphabet (14)  |  Amino Acid (12)  |  Base (120)  |  Building Block (9)  |  Chemical (303)  |  Clear (111)  |  Common (447)  |  Compose (20)  |  Configuration (8)  |  Cytosine (6)  |  Differ (88)  |  DNA (81)  |  Essential (210)  |  Guanine (5)  |  Intermediary (3)  |  Letter (117)  |  Life (1870)  |  Message (53)  |  Molecule (185)  |  Nitrogen (32)  |  Organism (231)  |  Origin (250)  |  Phosphate (6)  |  Protein (56)  |  Reproduction (74)  |  RNA (5)  |  Substitution (16)  |  Sugar (26)  |  Thymine (6)

The information we have so far from the exploration of the planets seems to indicate that the earth is probably the only place in this solar system where there is life.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In Space World (1985), 5, 25.
Science quotes on:  |  Earth (1076)  |  Exploration (161)  |  Indicate (62)  |  Information (173)  |  Life (1870)  |  Planet (402)  |  Solar System (81)  |  Space Exploration (15)  |  System (545)

The solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago, and the oldest fossils on Earth have been dated at about 3.8 billion years. Sometime between these two points, the chemicals of the young planet were organized into the responsive, reproducing systems we call “life.”
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
In 'Cosmochemistry The Earliest Evolution', The Science Teacher (Oct 1983), 50, No. 7, 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemical (303)  |  Date (14)  |  Earth (1076)  |  Fossil (143)  |  Life (1870)  |  Organize (33)  |  Planet (402)  |  Reproduction (74)  |  Responsive (3)  |  Solar System (81)  |  System (545)  |  Young (253)

The universe is reeking with organic matter. You could say that the universe is in the business of making life—or that God is an organic chemist.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
From interview, 'The Seeds of Life', in The Omni Interviews (1984), 10.
Science quotes on:  |  Business (156)  |  Chemist (169)  |  God (776)  |  Life (1870)  |  Making (300)  |  Matter (821)  |  Organic (161)  |  Origin Of Life (37)  |  Say (989)  |  Science And Religion (337)  |  Universe (900)

We think of something that has four legs and wags its tail as being alive. We look at a rock and say it’s not living. Yet when we get down to the no man’s land of virus particles and replicating molecules, we are hard put to define what is living and what is non-living.
— Cyril Ponnamperuma
From interview, 'The Seeds of Life', in The Omni Interviews (1984), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (97)  |  Being (1276)  |  Define (53)  |  Down (455)  |  Hard (246)  |  Leg (35)  |  Life (1870)  |  Living (492)  |  Look (584)  |  Man (2252)  |  Molecule (185)  |  Non-Living (3)  |  Particle (200)  |  Replicating (3)  |  Rock (176)  |  Say (989)  |  Something (718)  |  Tail (21)  |  Think (1122)  |  Virus (32)


See also:
  • 16 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Ponnamperuma's birth.
  • Origins of Life, by Cyril Ponnamperuma. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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