Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Dicarboxylic acids from electric discharge


OPARIN1 and Urey2 have suggested that methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water were present in the primitive atmosphere of the Earth. Significant yields of amino, hydroxy, and monocarboxylic acids have been produced by the action of electric discharge on such a primordial gas mixture3,4; and numerous chemical evolution experiments have produced many types of biologically significant molecules5. Apart from the detection of succinic acid3,4,6, no other dicarboxylic acids have been reported in chemical evolution experiments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Oparin, A. I., The Origin of Life (Dover Publications, New York, 1953).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Urey, H. C., Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 38, 351 (1952).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Miller, S. L., Biochim. biophys. Acta, 23, 480 (1957).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Miller, S. L., and Urey, H. C., Science, 130, 245 (1959).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Lemmon, R. M., Chem. Rev., 70, 95 (1970).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Lawless, J. G., and Boynton, C. D., Nature, 243, 405 (1973).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Lawless, J. G., et al., Nature, 251, 40 (1974).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Miller, S. L., J. Am. chem. Soc., 77, 2351 (1955).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Ring, D., Wolman, Y., Friedmann, N., and Miller, S. L., Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 69, 765 (1972).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Lawless, J. G., Geochim. cosmochim. Acta, 37, 2207 (1973).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

ZEITMAN, B., CHANG, S. & LAWLESS, J. Dicarboxylic acids from electric discharge. Nature 251, 42–43 (1974).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing