In 1944 Erwin Schrodinger published a little book with the title, `What is Life?' Though, obviously not the first to pose this question, it is purported to have provided at least part of the inspiration to those, such as Watson and Crick, who would later go some way to answering it.
Addy Pross, though using the same title, adds the sub-title, `How Chemistry Becomes Biology' and this is quite odd as he spends most of this very slim book attempting to persuade the reader of exactly the opposite; i.e. that biology is simply a sub set of chemistry, or at least its natural extension. His justification for this curious and, I imagine irritating - at least to biologists, strangely naïve claim is his depiction of the transformation from non-living to living matter as a two stage process the first of which, the abiological phase, which is governed, principally, according to the established laws of chemistry, results from the autocatalytic replication of organic molecules such as RNA resulting in replicating networks or primitive forms of embryonic proto-life. The second, biological, phase is governed by the `rules' of evolution as elucidated by Darwin leading to an increase in organic complexity and the biodiversity we see today.
Furthermore, he suggests the very same evolutionary rules that underpin the existence and survival of all living things also governed the `persistence' of these early organic molecules, which were `selected for' according to their `fitness' as replicators with fitness being determined largely by their relative dynamic kinetic stabilities (DKS): basically, those that could replicate the quickest and thus were more kinetically stable persisted longer, replicated more often and, as a result of mutations, gave rise to chemical diversity and increasingly more complex molecules the interactions of which produced the kind of `emergent properties' postulated as being, at east potentially, characteristic of primitive forms of proto-life. In order to convince the reader of the plausibility of his hypothesis he provides, early on, a brief explanation of the philosophical basis of the `scientific method'; i.e. induction, and then proceeds, in a kind of `sleight of hand' way, to outline his argument on the basis of this underlying assumed `inductive' authority.
The book does revisit interesting questions and posits some potentially intriguing ways in which these might be answered. However, in no way, does it get anywhere near answering the basic question posed by its title and it would have benefitted hugely if its author had been a little more `up-front' about this.
Finally, those readers who do not have, at least, some acquaintance with science and its often abstruse terminology, might find the book, though short in length, a little heavy going.