Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

Moorad Alexanian (
Tue, 11 May 1999 13:52:46 -0400

Dear Art,

I spent 2.5 years as a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University
and never heard a thing about Fox. However, as a physics graduate student at
Indiana University in Bloomington, I heard about Hermann Joseph Muller--1946
Nobel Laureate in Medicine for the discovery of the production of mutations
by means of X-ray irradiation. In my humble opinion an unambiguous creation
of life in a test tube would be orders of magnitude more important than
Muller's work. Where is the Nobel Prize for Fox??? In fact, I even called
a former colleague from SIU who spent many years there and he also had never
heard of Fox. I appreciate your input on this subject.

Take care,


-----Original Message-----
From: Arthur V. Chadwick <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Date: Tuesday, May 11, 1999 11:39 AM
Subject: Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

>At 09:41 AM 5/11/99 -0400, Moorad wrote:
>>I do not know the literature but I am sure that there are well-known
>>scientists who are very critical of the claim that the protocells of Fox
>Although Fox had a national reputation, his professional colleagues at
>University of Miami who were biologists/biochemists considered him to be a
>bit of a charlatan. They seemed not to have much respect for his science,
>and occasionally they would poke fun at his work in classes. But mostly
>they regarded his work as irrelevant to origin of life. Wm. Day ("Genesis
>on planet earth: the search for life's beginning." 2nd ed. Yale Univ Press.
>1984.) has stated "No matter how you look at it, [Fox's work] is scientific
>nonsense. " I think this attitude was pretty general among those who
>understood the complexity of life, especially biochemists. Of course there
>are plenty of scientists who take exception to his claims, and some of them
>have already been posted in this thread. But mostly, his work is justly
>ignored by origin of life advocates, who consider it periferal.
>But the whole issue of what constitutes a living cell, and thus defines
>what a "protocell" has to be is not that difficult to understand. If a
>candidate for a "protocell" is surrounded by a chemical membrane capable of
>discriminating the passage of ions and important biological molecules, if
>it contains encoded information and is capable of precisely replicating its
>information so that daughter cells contain the same information as the
>parent, if the cell is carrying out this process of replication and
>synthesis of new materials, and is truly not at chemical equilibrium with
>its environment, then it might be considered a candidate for a "protocell".
> Anything else is just chopped liver. In considering the origin of the
>first cell, Green and Goldberger ("Molecular insights into living process."
> Academic Press. 1967): called the origin of the first cell from non-living
>precursors "...a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range
>of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available
>facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this
>planet." Nothing has been discovered in the last 30 years that would lead
>me to think this statement is less valid today.