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History repeating itself? October 18, 2010

Posted by Simon in Uncategorized.

I mentioned briefly last week that back in 1961 there was a similar controversy about signs of life in a meteorite. It turns out to be a pretty interesting story, so here’s a bit more about it.

The Orgueil meteorite landed in France in 1864, and it was soon realised that it contained organic compounds, which raised questions about extraterrestrial life. The meteorite even got involved in the spontaneous regeneration debate – even if life doesn’t spontaneously regenerate on Earth, maybe it does in space? The meteorite was even studied by Louis Pasteur.

Fast forward to 1961, and a team led by Bart Nagy at Fordham University announced that the Orgueil meteorite did indeed contain biological material and something similar to fossilised algae (this sounds very similar to ALH84001…..)

By 1963, however, the claims (which received front-page coverage in newspapers around the world) had been discredited when it was shown that the signs of alien life were in fact Earth-based pollen or fungi. Later in 1965, someone tried to use glue a seed capsule onto the meteorite in order to claim that it showed signs of extraterrestrial life!

See here for more info from meteorites.org, a meteorite blog.



1. The meteorites are following me… | Science Controversies - March 7, 2011

[…] one of the meteorites Dr Hoover studied is the Orgueil meteorite, which landed in France in 1864. This is not the first time that Orgueil has been involved in claims of alien […]

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