Chemical apparatus built for experiments in the late 1960's by Cyril Ponnamperuma to investigate the synthesis of one of the sets of building blocks of life, the nuceotide bases, from gases thought to be present in the Earth's primordial atmosphere. The provenance of this artifact is uncertain. The amino acids as well as the bases that make up DNA and RNA are essential to life as we know it. It was proposed as early as the middle 1930's that the amino acids could have arisen from gases present in the Earth's early atmosphere. In 1952, Stanley Miller, a graduate student working with Harold Urey, circulated a mixture of water vapor, ammonia and methane gases thought to mimic that early atmosphere, past an electric discharge. At the end of a week he analyzed the product and found it to contain small amounts of the two simplest amino acids. Cyril Ponnamperuma and his group conducted a similar experiment in 1963 using electron beams as the source of energy. They observed the presence of adenine, one of the bases in DNA and RNA in the reaction mixture.
The family of Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma.