Book of the Month February 2024

The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology (2005)

by  Steven J. Dick  and James E. Strick  


The Living Universe is a comprehensive, historically nuanced study of the formation of the new scientific discipline of exobiology and its transformation into astrobiology. Among many other themes, the authors analyze how research on the origin of life became wedded to the search for life on other planets and for extraterrestrial intelligence. Many scientific breakthroughs of the last forty years were either directly supported or indirectly spun off from NASA’s exobiology program, including cell symbiosis, the discovery of the Archaea, and the theories of Nuclear Winter and the asteroid extinction of the dinosaurs.

Exobiology and astrobiology have generated public fascination, enormous public relations benefits for NASA, and–on the flip side of the coin–some of the most heated political wrangling ever seen in government science funding. Dick and Strick providea riveting overview of the search for life throughout the universe, with all of the Earthly complexities of a science-in-the-making and the imperfect humans called scientists. Their book will appeal to biologists, historians and philosophers of science, planetary scientists (including geologists), and an educated general readership interested in the investigation of life on other planets.

Steven J. Dick is the chief historian at NASA and associate editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology. Among his books are Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory, 1830–2000 The Biological Universe, and Life on Other Worlds, which has been translated into four languages.

 James E. Strick is the author of Sparks of Life: Darwinism and the Victorian Debates over Spontaneous Generation.  He is an assistant professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Franklin and Marshall College.

This book will be available at the conclusion of the February 12th, 2024 RASC meeting.  The Lamplighter Library is just off the main entrance to the Zeidler Dome and is open before and after our meetings.