Quantum biology: Introduction

Graham R. Fleming, Gregory D. Scholes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Introduction Key features of quantum mechanics are the uncertainty principle, wave–particle duality, quantization of energies and the modification of classical probability laws. Biology is concerned with how natural systems function – from understanding how genetically coded information is replicated, to attaining a mechanistic model for complex multistep reactions. Recently researchers have been asking whether quantum mechanics, normally the domain of physics, is also needed to understand some biological processes. This field includes fascinating developments in theory and experiment, as well as multidisciplinary discussion, and the state-of-the-art is documented in this book. Erwin Schrödinger, in his famous book What is Life? (Schrödinger, 1944), noted that quantum mechanics accounts for the stability of living things and their cellular processes because of our understanding, via quantum mechanics, of the stability and structure of molecules. The fact that quantum effects create, sometimes large, energy gaps between different states of a chemical system is also important. Such energy gaps, between electronic energy levels, enable living organisms to capture and store the energy carried from the sun by photons, and to visualize the world around them via optically induced chemical reactions. Davydov's view in Biology and Quantum Mechanics (Davydov, 1982) was that quantum mechanics is most relevant for isolated systems in pure states and therefore is of little importance for biological systems that are in statistical states at thermal equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationQuantum Effects in Biology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780511863189
ISBN (Print)9781107010802
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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