Diseases from Space

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Diseases From Space
Diseases from space.jpg
AuthorChandra Wickramasinghe, Fred Hoyle
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreSpace medicine
LC ClassRC1137

Diseases from Space is a book published in 1979 that was authored by astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, where they propose that many of the most common diseases which afflict humanity, such as influenza, the common cold and whooping cough, have their origins in extraterrestrial sources. The two authors argue the case for outer space being the main source for these pathogens or at least their causative agents.[1][2][3]

The claim connecting terrestrial disease and extraterrestrial pathogens was rejected by the scientific community.


Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe spent over 20 years investigating the nature and composition of interstellar dust. Though many hypotheses regarding this dust had been postulated by various astronomers since the middle of the 19th century, all were found to be wanting as and when new data on the gas and dust clouds became available. Chandra Wickramasinghe proposed the existence of polymeric composition based on the molecule formaldehyde (H2CO).[4]

In 1974 Wickramasinghe first proposed the hypothesis that some dust in interstellar space was largely organic (containing carbon and nitrogen),[5][6] and followed this up with other research confirming the hypothesis.[7] Wickramasinghe also proposed and confirmed the existence of polymeric compounds based on formaldehyde.[4] Fred Hoyle and Wickramasinghe later proposed the identification of bicyclic aromatic compounds from an analysis of the ultraviolet extinction absorption at 2175A,[8] thus demonstrating the existence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules in space.

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe went further and speculated that the overall spectroscopic data of cosmic dust and gas clouds also matched those for desiccated bacteria. This led them to conclude that diseases such as influenza and the common cold are incident from space and fall upon the Earth in what they term "pathogenic patches." Hoyle and Wickramasinghe viewed the process of evolution in a manner at variance with the standard Darwinian model. They speculated that genetic material in the form of incoming pathogens from the cosmos provided the mechanism for driving the evolutionary engine.[1][9] Hoyle died in 2001, and Wickramasinghe still advocates for these views and beliefs.

Scientific consensus[edit]

The claim connecting terrestrial disease and extraterrestrial pathogens was rejected and dismissed by the scientific community.[10] On 24 May 2003 The Lancet journal published a letter from Wickramasinghe,[11] jointly signed by Milton Wainwright and Jayant Narlikar, in which they speculate that the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) could be extraterrestrial in origin instead of originating from chickens. The Lancet subsequently published three responses to this letter, showing that the hypothesis was not evidence-based, and casting doubts on the quality of the experiments referenced by Wickramasinghe in his letter.[12][13][14]

Publication history[edit]

First published in 1979 by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Published in 1980 by Harper & Row. Published in 1981 by Sphere Books Ltd.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Liukkonen, Petri. "Fred Hoyle". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 15 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Comets, Contagion And Contingency". Senns.demon.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  3. ^ "Wickramasinghe, Chandra (1939-)". Daviddarling.info. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  4. ^ a b N.C. Wickramasinghe, Formaldehyde Polymers in Interstellar Space, Nature, 252, 462, 1974
  5. ^ Nature, vol: 252, 462, 1974; and Nature, Vol 268, 610, 1977.
  6. ^ Ruaud, M.; Loison, J.C.; Hickson, K.M.; Gratier, P.; Hersant, F.; Wakelam, V. (2015). "Modeling Complex Organic Molecules in dense regions: Eley-Rideal and complex induced reaction". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 447 (4): 4004–4017. arXiv:1412.6256. Bibcode:2015MNRAS.447.4004R. doi:10.1093/mnras/stu2709. S2CID 118385409.
  7. ^ Wickramasinghe, D. T. & Allen, D. A. The 3.4-μm interstellar absorption feature. Nature 287, 518−519 (1980). Allen, D. A. & Wickramasinghe, D. T. Diffuse interstellar absorption bands between 2.9 and 4.0 μm. Nature 294, 239−240 (1981). Wickramasinghe, D. T. & Allen, D. A. Three components of 3–4 μm absorption bands. Astrophys. Space Sci. 97, 369−378 (1983).
  8. ^ F. Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe, Identification of the lambda 2200A interstellar absorption feature, Nature, 270, 323, 1977
  9. ^ "Cool Cosmos". Coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  10. ^ Joseph Patrick Byrne (2008). Encyclopedia of Pestilence, Pandemics, and Plagues. ABC-CLIO. pp. 454–455. ISBN 978-0-313-34102-1.
  11. ^ Wickramasinghe, C; Wainwright, M; Narlikar, J (May 24, 2003). "SARS—a clue to its origins?". Lancet. 361 (9371): 1832. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)13440-X. PMID 12781581. S2CID 43843273.
  12. ^ Willerslev, E; Hansen, AJ; Rønn, R; Nielsen, OJ (Aug 2, 2003). "Panspermia--true or false?". Lancet. 362 (9381): 406, author reply 407–8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14039-1. PMID 12907025. S2CID 43529100.
  13. ^ Bhargava, PM (Aug 2, 2003). "Panspermia--true or false?". Lancet. 362 (9381): 407, author reply 407–8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14041-X. PMC 7134934. PMID 12907028.
  14. ^ Ponce de Leon, S; Lazcano, A (Aug 2, 2003). "Panspermia--true or false?". Lancet. 362 (9381): 406–7, author reply 407–8. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(03)14040-8. PMC 7135165. PMID 12907026.