The Genesis Quest

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474611435

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 5th August 2021

Genre: Mathematics & Science

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‘A fascinating and challenging story’ New York Review of Books

‘This is an incredibly absorbing and insightful book about the most important scientific question of our age’ Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters

‘The story of the quest to understand life’s genesis is a universal one, in which everyone can find pleasure and fascination. By asking how life came to be, we are implicitly asking why we are here, whether life exists on other planets, and what it means to be alive. This book is the story of a group of fragile, flawed humans who chose to wrestle with these questions. By exploring the origin of life, we can catch a glimpse of the infinite.’

How did life begin? Why are we here? These are some of the most profound questions we can ask.

For almost a century, a small band of eccentric scientists has struggled to answer these questions and explain one of the greatest mysteries of all: how and why life began on Earth. There are many different proposals, and each idea has attracted passionate believers who promote it with an almost religious fervour, as well as detractors who reject it with equal passion.

But the quest to unravel life’s genesis is not just a story of big ideas. It is also a compelling human story, rich in personalities, conflicts, and surprising twists and turns. Along the way the journey takes in some of the greatest discoveries in modern biology, from evolution and cells to DNA and life’s family tree. It is also a search whose end may finally be in sight.

In The Genesis Quest, Michael Marshall shows how the quest to understand life’s beginning is also a journey to discover the true nature of life, and by extension our place in the universe.


Prepare yourself for a dazzling intellectual journey: the science is fascinating, the cast of characters all-too-human, and the philosophical insights deep. Written in clear and entertaining prose, like a Sherlock Holmes story, this is the best book I know for general readers about the quest to solve one of our most enduring mysteries: how and where, in a seemingly purposeless universe, life began on planet earth.
Oren Harman, author of Evolutions: Fifteen Myths that Explain Our World
The Genesis Quest recounts remarkable episodes in the history of attempts to scientifically understand the origin of life. Combining exceptionally clear expositions of what is scientifically at stake, distinctive humor, and a roving eye for the telling anecdote, this is anything but a tedious scientific genealogy. Marshall has a flair and talent for explaining each individual experiment and its intellectual context. The Genesis Quest offers a well-done romp through some fascinating and complicated terrain.
Luis A. Campos, author of Radium and the Secret of Life
Marshall has rounded up all the past and current thinking about this profound and puzzling question - how did life begin? - into a neat, enthralling and highly digestible package.
Philip Ball, author of How To Grow a Human
A fascinating and challenging story.
New York Review of Books
The book's distinctive style comes from well-researched analysis of the behaviour and lifestyles of the various scientists who have contributed to this fascinating and uniquely difficult question... an extremely stimulating read and I recommend it most strongly to scientists and laymen alike.
The Biologist
This is an incredibly absorbing and insightful book about the most important scientific question of our age.
Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters