What Is Life?

Publication series Das Neue Alphabet (The New Alphabet), Volume 11
Editors: Stefan Helmreich, Natasha Myers, Sophia Roosth and Michael Rossi (Biogroop) in association with Katrin Klingan und Nick Houde
Publisher: Spector Books, Leipzig
80-100 pages, German and English edition
color illustrations, paperback with folded dust cover
Price: 10 €

Released in October 2021

“What is life?” is a question that has haunted the life sciences since Gottfried Treviranus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck independently coined the word “biology” in 1802. The query has titled scores of articles and books, with Erwin Schrödinger’s in 1944 and Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan’s in 1995 being only the most prominent ones. In this book, the editors curate and speculate upon a collection of first pages of publications from 1829–2020 containing “What Is Life?” in their titles. Replies to the question – and, by extension, the object of biology – have transformed since its first enunciation, from “the sum of the functions that resist death” to “a bioinformation system” to “edible, lovable, lethal.” Interleaved are frame-shifting interruptions reflecting on how the question has been posed, answered, and may yet be unasked. With contributions by Evelyn Fox Keller, Stefan Helmreich, Natasha Myers, Sophia Roosth and Michael Rossi.