A Theory of Biochemical Supersystems
and its Application to Problems of Natural and Artificial Biogenesis

Paralel print of the Akadémiai Kiadó and the University Park Press Baltimore, 1979
HU: pdf
EN: pdf


At first sight it could be surprising that a biologist being far away from this topic being interested mainly in synbiology dealing with supraindividual organisation (also) writes a foreword to the book of Tibor Gánti summarizing his research results concerning prebiotic evolution.

I followed gladly the honouring invitation of the publisher from several reasons. First of all, an objective reason. Until now, this topic, the problem of  development and general properties of living systems is a mystic subject from the effect of which no thinking people can withdraw themselves. It is not accidental that in the book of Tibor Gánti „The principles of life” numerous citations are provided on this subject, not only by biologists, but from representatives of various professions, from the philosopher to the nuclear physicist. At the same time, it should also be noticed that the viewpoints are not at all uniform, in fact, each scientist relates to the problem according to his professional viewpoint, and the majority of them contributes some individual merits in order to help solving the numerous questions which are still open. In spite of this, a reassuring solution lets us to wait, and possibly it will remain in the dark for a long time to come. However, this does not mean that we should give up our efforts.

Thus it is very fortunate that there are such committed scientists as Tibor Gánti, who came already in his youth under the influence of this magic circle, and did not want to give it up later, either. By a lengthy creative work he riped out a theory, which he went round thoroughly in both theoretical and practical ways, he wanted to corroborate, and committedly, not faltering even in failures, by replying to the unbelievers with newer and newer arguments for his theory. Sándor Koch writes in the foreword of the book „The essence of life” by Francis Crick that the real and evergreen value of the book in his eyes is its bravery. I think the same about Tibor Gánti, who has the courage to start with such a subject in a small country knowing its little possibilities and its delimitations, and to persist in the unmerited conditions of this country.

Of course, I understand Tibor Gánti. His undertaking is a very exciting adventure, a steady fight and struggle with the almost unknowable which is, for a man with a livid fantasy and rational thinking is, at the same time, the highest delight. For me, the most praiseworthy in the work of Tibor Gánti –which will hopefully continue with further original ideas and successful solutions in the future -  that in spite of the objective difficulties and subjective judgments banking up before him, his creative instinct and enthusiasm could not be broken down, and he believed in his truth to such an extent that he was able to weigh the questions in debate, the counter-arguments sober-mindedly, he was even capable of turning them to his own merit. And all this, he accomplished in Hungary, in the often poor and petty-minded environment, giving up the wider possibilities of international fame and the undoubtedly larger professional and personal advantage.

Finally, let me name some personal reasons for my playing a role in this review, without the claim to completeness. From the beginning, I was fascinated by the intuitive intellectuality of Tibor Gánti; at first from my study-years on I read his works with a keen interest, then later on I also taught  them. I had namely the surprising experience that students being engaged in our synbiological (or in its more popular name: ecological) science and coming to the university to learn it, do not know the importance of these general problems, and therefor they underestimate their significance.

However, I see so and declare that without a comprehensive knowledge of the most general properties of the living world, supraindividual organisation cannot be understood. In order to discover the „nature” (citing the appropriate expression of Albert Szent-Györgyi) of living systems, to understand their structural and functional relations, to clarify the possibilities and conditions of their survival, I feel indispensable to clarify most accurately the development and course of their coming into existence, from the tiny and deficient details to create an acceptable mosaic image by means of a theory founded on clear postulates.

In lack of this knowledge, in my opinion, synbiology cannot be studied successfully either, since I am convinced that the general laws of living systems are valid also at the level of supraindividual organisation. It is an extra pleasure for me that positive feed-backs from my students support my belief.

*** The essence of the book by Tibor Gánti is the chemoton theory, his every thought is arranged around this subject, from the chemical constituents of living systems through the criteria of life to the theoretical biological outlook. ***

An extra merit of his work is that he is not lost in details, he tries to synthesize the physical, chemical and biological knowledge available, by calling to assistance up-to-date cybernetic and mathematic knowledges, and applying the tools of modelling and computer simulation.

***At discovering and explaining the properties of living systems, the author builds by starting from the elements of lifeless nature. However, this does not mean simplification, but helps to emphasize the essential properties and processes, the unambiguos orientation in the labirinth of a reaction network consisting of reversible and irreversible processes and connected together at a number of sites and in a very variable way.

The author never loses sight of the fact that these elementary events assemble to a uniform (synthetic) entity exclusively characterising the living systems (their nature), thus providing a possibility for the exact interpretation of the conditions and course of their formation. This can be considered the largest, indisputable virtue of his work.***

Of course, besides the theory of Tibor Gánti, other hypotheses also exist on the essence and origin of life. I do not feel myself qualified to take sides in the question which one  and to what extent can a theory can be considered acceptable. But the „decision” in this question in my opinion is not so important at the present state of science, since in this decision nowadays still personal sympathy, notoriety, and even mysticism may play a decisive role.

I feel more essential to be open in the study of these questions, in reception of their objectives and motivations, and as humanists, we should try to be oriented in an even wider and wider circle and to elaborate the results of these theories. I recommend to everybody who wants to go on this exciting intellectual way of discovery (and not only for professionals), to read the present  summarising book of Tibor Gánti.

I hope that the reader will not only turn the pages of this book profitably, but also with some proud, since owing to the work of the author, our homeland deserved a worthy and dignified place in the professional world in this subject enjoying an ever increasing interest worldwide.

                                                                       György Dévai

From *** to ***: text on the backside of the book.