Robert Shapiro (chemist)

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Robert Shapiro
Born (1935-11-28)November 28, 1935
New York City, United States
Died June 15, 2011(2011-06-15) (aged 75) [1]
Nationality American
Fields Chemistry
Institutions University of Cambridge, New York University
Alma mater City College of New York (BS), Harvard University (PhD)
Doctoral advisor Robert B. Woodward
Known for Work on origin of life
Notable awards Trotter Prize (2004) with Paul Davies [1]
Not to be confused with chemist Robert H. Shapiro who discovered the Shapiro reaction.

Robert Shapiro (28 November 1935 – 15 June 2011[1]) was professor emeritus of chemistry at New York University. He is best known for his work on the origin of life, having written two books on the topic: Origins, a Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (1986) and Planetary Dreams (2001). He opposed the RNA world hypothesis, and held that the spontaneous emergence of a molecule as complicated as RNA is highly unlikely. Instead, he proposed that life arose from some self-sustaining and compartmentalized reaction of simple molecules: "metabolism first" instead of "RNA first". This reaction would have to be able to reproduce and evolve, eventually leading to RNA. He claimed that in this view life is a normal consequence of the laws of nature and potentially quite common in the universe.[2]


  • Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth Summit Books (January 1986) ISBN 0-671-45939-2.
  • Planetary Dreams: The Quest to Discover Life Beyond Earth Wiley; 1 edition (May 18, 2001) ISBN 0471407356.


  1. ^ a b c "Bob Shapiro Passes Away at Age 75". New York University. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Alvin Powell, NYU chemist Robert Shapiro decries RNA-first possibility, Harvard University Gazette, 23 October 2008

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