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What Is Life?

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Seventy-five years ago the distinguished physicist Erwin Schrödinger published a celebrated book entitled What is Life? Despite dazzling advances in biology since, scientists still don’t know what life is or how it began. There is no doubt that living organisms are in a class apart, almost magical in their amazing properties. Yet they are made of normal matter. Just in the last few years, the secret of life is finally being revealed, and the missing link between matter and life comes from a totally unexpected direction. The discovery looks set to open up the next great frontier of science, with sweeping implications for technology and medicine. It also holds the tantalising promise of uncovering fundamentally new laws of nature.Remarkably, What is Life? appeared at the height of the Second World War. Schrödinger had fled his native Austria to escape the Nazis and, after a brief sojourn in Oxford, settled in Dublin at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Eamonn de Valera, accompanied b...

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