Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Leslie Orgel Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0176
32.8 Linear feet
(79 archives boxes, 9 oversize folders, and 1 art bin item)
Date (inclusive): 1949-2007
Abstract: Papers of Leslie Eleazer Orgel (1927-2007), chemist and molecular biologist. Orgel was a senior fellow and research professor
at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he directed the Chemical Evolution Laboratory. The collection includes
correspondence, writings, talks and lectures, research files, patents, administrative files, photographs, and audiovisual
Scope and Content of Collection
Papers of chemist and molecular biologist Leslie Eleazer Orgel (1927-2007). Orgel was a senior fellow and research professor
at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he directed the Chemical Evolution Laboratory. Orgel's research interests
included nucleic acid chemistry, molecular evolution, prebiotic chemistry, and problems related to the origin of life. The
collection includes correspondence, writings, talks and lectures, research files, patents, administrative files, photographs,
and audiovisual materials.
Accession Processed in 2006
Arranged in seven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) CONTRACTS, GRANTS AND PROPOSALS, 5)
CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS, 6) SUBJECT FILES, and 7) SALK INSTITUTE.
Accession Processed in 2018
Arranged in eight series: 8) BIOGRAPHICAL 9) CORRESPONDENCE, 10) TALKS AND LECTURES, 11) WRITINGS, 12) PROJECTS AND RESEARCH,
13) ORGANIZATIONS AND COMMITTEES, 14) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 15) SOUND AND VIDEO RECORDINGS.
Leslie Eleazer Orgel was born in London, England, on January 12, 1927. He received his B.A. in chemistry with first class
honors from the University of Oxford in 1949. In 1950 he was elected a fellow of Magdalen College and in 1951 was awarded
his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Oxford.
Orgel started his career as a theoretical inorganic chemist and continued his studies in this field at Oxford, the California
Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. In 1955 he joined the chemistry department at the University of Cambridge,
where he did work in transition metal chemistry, published articles and wrote a textbook,
Transition Metal Chemistry: Ligand Field Theory (1960).
In 1964 Orgel was appointed senior fellow and research professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he directed
the Chemical Evolution Laboratory. He was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the
University of California, San Diego, and was one of five principal investigators in the NASA-sponsored NSCORT program in exobiology.
Orgel also participated in NASA's Viking Mars Lander Program as a member of the Molecular Analysis Team that designed the
gas chromatography mass spectrometer instrument.
The Origins of Life: Molecules and Natural Selection (1970) and co-authored with Stanley Miller
The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974). He published over three hundred articles in his research areas. In Britain he was awarded the Harrison Prize in 1956
for his work in inorganic chemistry and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1962. In the United States he received a
Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971, the Evans Award from Ohio State University in 1975, and the H.C. Urey Medal from the International
Society for the Study of the Origin of Life in 1993. He was an elected member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
and the National Academy of Sciences. Leslie Orgel died on October 27, 2007 in San Diego, California.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Leslie Orgel Papers, MSS 176. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Acquired 1997, 2008.
Original media formats are restricted; researchers may request listening or viewing copies in advance of their visit.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Valence (Theoretical chemistry)
Life -- Origin
Chemists -- Biography
Ligand field theory
Orgel, Leslie E. -- Archives
Miller, Stanley Lloyd, 1930-2007 -- Correspondence
Sagan, Carl, 1934-1996 -- Correspondence
Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Chemical Evolution Laboratory
Seleznev, S. A. -- Correspondence
Arrhenius, Gustaf -- Correspondence
Kornberg, Arthur, 1918-2007 -- Correspondence
Holliday, R. (Robin), 1932-2014 -- Correspondence
Gamow, George, 1904-1968 -- Correspondence
Crick, Francis, 1916-2004 -- Correspondence
Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995 -- Correspondence
Salk Institute for Biological Studies -- Faculty