Erwin Schrödinger wrote “What is life?” in 1944. The text was originally delivered as a conference at the Trinity College in Dublin, where the Austrian physicist relocated. It is very hard to overlook the impact his contribution had on the direction of the subsequent molecular biology research agenda: a physicist among the most distinguished dared venturing into uncharted terrain and explore from a very abstract vantage point nothing less than the deepest question: what is life?
Diffusion PDE, Brownian motion, central limit theorem and its relation to the question of the granularity of our senses etc: in the spirit of the highest German tradition, a concert of voices that was equally at ease in the writings of Gauss and Kant, Hilbert and Mach as well as more off-the-center figures of the Western canon like Schopenhauer, Spinoza and Nietzsche.
Among the people that clearly recognized their intellectual debt to the musing of ES was Roger Penrose (“When I was a young mathematics student in the early 1950s I did not read a great deal, but what I did read […] was usually by Erwin Schrödinger.”) and of course Watson & Crick, before their momentous discovery in April 1953.