Alienated theory

April 22, 2005

In his otherwise excellent article describing the work of Fred Hoyle (Features, April 15), Simon Mitton ignores the late astronomer's remarkable contribution to our understanding of the origin of life.

With his longstanding friend and colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, Hoyle developed the theory of panspermia and concluded that life arrived on Earth from space in the form of micro-organisms. More controversially, he and Wickramasinghe suggest that life continues to arrive on Earth from space, helping explain the appearance of new diseases.

Although widely derided, these theories are extremely cogent and many of their ideas were published in journals such as Nature .

Mitton believes that Hoyle's work in this area is best not mentioned, presumably in the belief that it tarnishes his memory as a great scientist.

In reality, components of the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe theory may prove to be among the most influential ideas of all time and will help to confirm the breadth of Hoyle's genius.

Milton Wainwright

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