Searching for Life in the Solar System ... And Beyond

A Research Discussion Meeting
London, UK - 31 October 1996

Opening Remarks

Professor C T Pillinger, PSRI, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

Two hundred years and one month ago, a stone which fell from the sky in Yorkshire made headlines in the newspapers of the day and was put on display in Piccadilly. It was seen by the Presidents of the Society of Antiquities and the Royal Society, both of whom commented the similarity between this and other stones which had fallen elsewhere in the world during the immediately preceding few years. The Royal Society's President, the legendary Sir Joseph Banks, as a result of his observations set in motion a programme of chemical and petrological studies which was to prove conclusively that all the stones were related. As an outcome in 1802 it became almost generally accepted that these stones, meteorites were of extraterrestrial origin and the subject of meteoritic was born. Now another President has recognised the value of meteorite research saying that if the discoveries made on Martian sample 84001 "are confirmed it will surely be one of the most stunning insights into our Universe that science has ever uncovered".