In chemistry, autocatalysis is a type of catalysis in which a reaction is accelerated by one of its own products, so that a long time may elapse before anything happen, but if that product begins to form, or is introduced from without, the reaction goes faster and faster. [1]

In 1920, Austrian-born American physical chemist Alfred Lotka, student of Wilhelm Ostwald — the first to realize that a catalyst acts without altering the energy relations of the reaction, and that it usually speeds up a reaction by lowering the activation energy — was discussing mechanisms of coupled autocatalytic reactions. [4]

In 1925, American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis stated that autocatalysis "has not long been known". [1]

In 1952, Sergius Morgulis, in summary of Harold Blum (1951) and Alexander Oparin (1936), outlined a catalytic + free energy + feedback reaction model of the origin of life.

In 1961, Hungarian-born American anthropologist Steven Polgar, in his article “Evolution and the Thermodynamic Imperative”, seems to have labeled replication as “chromosomal autocatalysis”. [2]

In 1968, Dean Wooldridge was using autocatalysis as one of the hypothetical steps in the formation of the “living cells”, a step preceded by a reducing atmosphere, after which, as he states: [5]

“The droplets that started as inert bags of chemicals could slowly lead to structures with properties of growth, metabolism, and reproduction at least crudely similar to those exhibited by modern single-celled organism.”

In 1995, American complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman constructed an entire book series around the premise of “auto-catalytic closure” and closed thermodynamic cycles in order to argue for the emergence of life from the periodic table of elements; event going so far as to posit a new fourth law of thermodynamics, framed around the notion of auto-catalysis. [2]

1. Lewis, Gilbert N. (1925). The Anatomy of Science (§7: Non-Mathematical Sciences: pg. 181), Silliman Lectures; Yale University Press, 1926.
2. (a) Polgar, Steven. (1961). “Evolution and the Thermodynamic Imperative”, Human Biology, pgs. 99-109.
(b) Steven Polgar (1931-1978) – eMuseum at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
3. Kaufmann, Stuart. (1993). The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (catalytic closure, 26+ pgs). Oxford University Press.
4. Hargittai, Istvan. (1992). Spiral Symmetry (pg. 224). World Scientific.
5. Wooldridge, Dean. (1968). The Mechanical Man: the Physical Basis of Intelligent Life (pgs. 22-23). McGraw-Hill.

● Bawendi, Moungi. (2008). “Autocatalysis and Oscillators” (Ѻ), Lec 36 | MIT 5.60 Thermodynamics and Kinetics, Spring.

External links
Autocatalysis – Wikipedia.

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