Geochemistry of Living Matter


THE chemical composition of living organisms A has been studied in the past by many scientific investigators, but not in a systematic way. A new and thoroughly comprehensive approach to the investigation of the whole problem can be seen in the work of the Biogeochemical Laboratory of the Russian Academy of Sciences, under the inspired leadership of Prof. V. I. Vernadsky, whose fundamental idea is to study living matter not as something apart from so-called inorganic Nature, but as an important participant in the extremely complex chains of the geochemical processes proper to our planet. E. Suess already in 1875 proposed the term ‘biosphere’ for that portion of the earth's crust which contains life, but no attempt has ever been made to investigate the extent to which the multitudinous ‘rocks’ of the earth's crust are influenced by living organisms. Vernadsky is convinced that the geochemical role of organisms is grossly misunderstood and underrated. This fascinating problem was raised by him so far back as 1918, and in 1928 a special laboratory was created for the purpose of investigating it. The enormity of the task before the laboratory makes it impossible to expect any far-reaching results within such a short period, but two reports and a series of papers published from the laboratory contain a mass of valuable data, which can be only very briefly reviewed here.


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    V. I. Vernadsky, “Biosphera” (in Russian), Leningrad, 1926; “La biosphère”, Paris, 1929.

  2. 2

    Mem. Acad. Sci. Ukraine, No. 3; 1918.

  3. 3

    Travaux du Labor. Biogeochem. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 1; 1930.

  4. 4

    idem, 2; 1932.

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    Acad. Sci. Ukraine, Mem. Class. Phys. Math., 11, No. 3, 369; 1929.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 227; 1929: ibid., 127; 1930.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 1673; 1933. Pariroda, No. 8–9, 1933; 1933.

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    "Geochemistry of Living Matter” (in Russian). Publ. of the Acad. Sci. U.S.S.R., 1932, 67 pp.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 148; 1931. C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 560; 1931.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 465; 1930.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 421; 1930.

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    C.R. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 215; 1926. C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 131; 1931.

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    Chemical News, 140, 34; 1930. l.c., 142, 33; 1931.

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    Bull. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 697, 727, 1053; 1926.

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    "Instructions for the Determination of Geochemical Constants”, Publ. Acad. Sci. U.R.S.S., 1926, 2 parts.

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    "History of the Minerals of the Earth's Crust”, vol. 2. “History of Natural Waters”, part 1 in Russian. Leningrad, 1933.

  17. 17

    Miner. und Petrograph. Mitteil., 44, 168; 1933.

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UVAROV, B. Geochemistry of Living Matter. Nature 134, 11–12 (1934).

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