August 15, 2016 Astrobiology Symposium to Explore the Emergence of Life, Sept. 15

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The emergence of life, one of the most compelling topics in astrobiology, will be the focus of a daylong astrobiology symposium at the Library of Congress on Sept. 15.

“The Emergence of Life: On the Earth, in the Lab and Elsewhere” will be hosted by Nathaniel Comfort, the current NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center. The symposium will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15 in room 119 on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

The Kluge Center is presenting the symposium, as part of its joint NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Program.

Scientists, scholars and journalists will participate in the panels, including:

  • Nsikan Akpan, science writer and producer, PBS News Hour
  • Steven Benner, synthetic biologist, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
  • Jim Cleaves, chemist, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institute
  • Bill Mesler, independent science writer
  • Sophia Roosth, historian of science, Harvard University
  • Matt Schrenk, geomicrobiologist, Michigan State University
  • Carl Zimmer, award-winning science writer, New York Times

The event also will feature the incoming NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology for 2016-2017, historian of science Luis Campos, and two previous chair holders: planetary scientist David Grinspoon; and historian and astronomer Steven Dick. For a schedule and further information, visit

Comfort is a historian of recent science and a professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University. His books include "The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine" (2012) and "The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock’s Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control" (2001).

The program is part of the Kluge Center’s ongoing Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Program, which investigates the intersection of astrobiology research with humanistic and societal concerns. The astrobiology chair is a senior scholar position at the Kluge Center.

The astrobiology chair is the result of collaboration between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. Funded by NASA, and executed by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the program promotes research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic and societal implications. A senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at the Kluge Center, to make use of the Library of Congress collections, as well as to convene related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information, visit

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at, and register creative works of authorship at


PR 16-135
ISSN 0731-3527