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What was the very first life form and how did it originate?




Image: National Science Foundation

The very first life forms were bacteria. They originated on the Earth around 3.5 billion years ago. There are various theories about how they came to be. In general, the question of how inorganic material can transform itself into a living organism (abiogenesis) is one of the biggest mysteries in science. After all, this is a process that we have never been able to observe or to recreate in a laboratory. One theory, the “primordial soup hypothesis”, is that life emerged from an accumulation of compounds within a primordial “soup”. Another theory of how life came to Earth – albeit challenged by many scientists – is that an asteroid or comet brought bacteria to the planet from elsewhere (“exogenesis”). However, even the more feasible idea of abiogenesis remains a very complex process that we are not yet able to fully understand.

Saskia Blank of the Ideas 2020 team answered this question.