Robert Shapiro (28 November 1935 – 15 June 2011) was professor emeritus of chemistry at New York University. He is best known for his work on the origin of life, having written two books on the topic: Origins, a Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (1986) and Planetary Dreams (1999). He opposed the RNA world hypothesis, and held that the spontaneous emergence of a molecule as complicated as RNA is highly unlikely. Instead, he proposed that life arose from some self-sustaining and compartmentalized reaction of simple molecules: "metabolism first" instead of "RNA first". This reaction would have to be able to reproduce and evolve, eventually leading to RNA. He claimed that in this view life is a normal consequence of the laws of nature and potentially quite common in the universe.
|Died||June 15, 2011(aged 75)|
|Alma mater||City College of New York (BS), Harvard University (PhD)|
|Known for||Work on origin of life|
|Awards||Trotter Prize (2004) with Paul Davies|
|Institutions||University of Cambridge, New York University|
|Doctoral advisor||Robert B. Woodward|
- Life Beyond Earth: The Intelligent Earthling's Guide to Extraterrestrial Life (with Gerald Feinberg) Morrow, 1980. ISBN 0-688-08642-X.
- Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth Summit Books (January 1986) ISBN 0-671-45939-2.
- Planetary Dreams: The Quest to Discover Life Beyond Earth Wiley; 1 edition (1999) ISBN 0471407356.
- "Bob Shapiro Passes Away at Age 75". New York University. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- Alvin Powell, NYU chemist Robert Shapiro decries RNA-first possibility, Harvard University Gazette, 23 October 2008