Orgel, Leslie E.

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British chemist educated at the University of Oxford and, since 1964, a member of the research faculty at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Orgel has conducted pioneering research in nucleotide chemistry and questions concerning the origin of life. He is the author of the The origins of life: molecules and natural selection (1970) and, with Stanley L. Miller, of The origins of life on the earth (1974). He has been awarded the Harrison Prize (1957) and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (1962) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1980).

From the description of Papers, 1960-1991. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 37356813


Leslie Eleazer Orgel was born in London, England, on January 12, 1927. He received his B.A. in chemistry with first class honors from Oxford university in 1949. In 1950 he was elected a Fellow of Magdalen College and in 1951 was awarded his Ph.D in chemistry at Oxford.

Orgel started his career as a theoretical inorganic chemist and continued his studies in this field at Oxford, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. In 1955 he joined the chemistry department at Cambridge university.

There he did work in transition metal chemistry, published articles and wrote a textbook entitled TRANSITION METAL CHEMISTRY: LIGAND FIELD THEORY (1960).

In 1964 Orgel was appointed Senior Fellow and Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he directs the Chemical Evolution Laboratory. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and he is one of five principal investigators in the NASA-sponsored NSCORT program in exobiology. Orgel also participated in NASA's Viking Mars Lander Program as a member of the Molecular Analysis Team that designed the gas chromatography mass spectrometer instrument.

Orgel's work in the Chemical Evolution Laboratory is in nucleotide chemistry and is mainly concerned with non-enzymatic polymerization reactions that depend on the formation of double-helical complexes between a preformed polynucleotide template and one or more complementary mononucleotide or polynucleotide substrates. In the context of chemical evolution, selected templates are employed to facilitate synthesis of complementary RNA sequences. In other work, oligonucleotide sequences are used to direct reactive molecules (warheads) to a complementary target DNA, so as to cleave a crosslink to the target at a predetermined position. Methods for crosslinking transcription factors irreversibly to their DNA recognition sequences are also being developed. His NASA-sponsored research focuses on the catalysis of nucleic acid replication by mineral surfaces.


and co-authored, with Stanley Miller, THE ORIGINS OF LIFE ON THE EARTH (1974). He has published over three hundred articles in his research areas.

Orgel's contributions have been recognized throughout his career. In Britain he was awarded the Harrison Prize in 1957 for his work in inorganic chemistry and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962. In the United States he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971, the Evans Award from Ohio State University in 1975, and the H.C. Urey Medal from the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1990.

From the guide to the Leslie Orgel Papers, 1960 - 1991, (University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Francis Crick Personal Papers, 1938 - 2007 Mandeville Special Collections Library
creatorOf Orgel, Leslie E. Papers, 1960-1991. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Stanley Miller Papers, 1952-2010 Mandeville Special Collections Library
referencedIn Jack Dunitz Papers, 1927-2009 Oregon State University SpecialCollections, The Valley Library
referencedIn Salvador E. Luria Papers, 1923-1992 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Horace Freeland Judson Collection, 1968-1978 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Leslie Orgel Papers, 1960 - 1991 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Arrhenius, Gustaf person
associatedWith Arrhenius, Gustaf, person
correspondedWith Crick, Francis, 1916- person
associatedWith Crick, Francis, 1916-2004, person
associatedWith Dunitz, Jack D. person
associatedWith Gamow, George, 1904-1968, person
associatedWith Holliday, R. (Robin), 1932- person
associatedWith Judson, Horace Freeland, 1931- person
associatedWith Kornberg, Arthur, 1918-2007, person
correspondedWith Labouygues, Jean-Michel person
associatedWith Labouygues, Jean-Michel, person
associatedWith Luria, S. E., (Salvador Edward), 1912-1991 person
associatedWith Miller, Stanley L., 1930- person
correspondedWith Sagan, Carl, 1934- person
associatedWith Sagan, Carl, 1934-1996, person
associatedWith Salk Institute for Biological Studies corporateBody
associatedWith Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Chemical Evolution Laboratory. corporateBody
correspondedWith Selezne, S. A. person
associatedWith Selezne, S. A., person
associatedWith Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995, person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Chemistry, Inorganic
Ligand field theory
Valence (Theoretical chemistry)
Molecular evolution


Birth 1927-01-12

Death 2007-10-27



Ark ID: w6jt1p4h

SNAC ID: 58262366