Asimov tells the fascinating story of scientists’ attempts to find out how life began.
He describes the experiemtns in the 17th and 18th centuries by Redi, Spallanzani, and Pasteur that disproved spontaneous generation but goes on to show that spontaneous generation must have taken place billions of years ago when the earth’s atmosphere was very different.
Young readers will learn about the exciting work of Urey, Miller, Oparin, and other chemists who, given the right starting chemicals and a source of energy, have managed to produce smiple chemicals that resemble those in living things.
With scientists only at the beginning of their attempts to find out how life began, Asimov sees exciting possibilities ahead.
This is a story often told by Asimov in one book or another, beginning at least with The Wellsprings of Life and, of course, in The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science and its descendants, so there is little of interest here to the Asimov fan. It is, however, uniquely accessible to the target audience of fifth to eight graders, and so I would heartily recommend it to them as a means of learning the story of how the origin of life has been investigated, from the days of spontaneous generation through the discovery of the double helix and Stanley Miller’s experiment on the origin of life on the Earth. I don’t know how dated the book is, since it breaks off in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the experimenters who followed Miller and the Viking probes, and I don’t know what’s been done since—but to my knowledge, there is no reason not to hand this book to the child interested in the subject.