Looking in the right direction Carl Woese and evolutionary biology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Carl Woese is known to the scientific community primarily through his landmark contributions to microbiology, in particular, his discovery of the third Domain of Life, which came to be known as the Archaea. While it is well known how he made this discovery, through the techniques he developed based on his studies of rRNA, the reasons why he was driven in this scientific direction, and what he saw as the principle outcome of his discovery—it was not the Archaea!—are not so widely appreciated. In this essay, I discuss his vision of evolution, one which transcends population genetics, and which has ramifications not only for our understanding of the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere, but also for our understanding of biology as a novel class of complex dynamical systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-253
Number of pages6
JournalRNA Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Carl Woese
  • Evolution
  • Genetic code
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Molecular phylogeny
  • Progenote
  • Ribosome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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