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Thomas Gold

Thomas Gold (1920 - ) is an American astrophysicist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Soon after the discovery of pulsars in 1968, he correctly identified these objects as rapidly rotating neutron stars with strong magnetic fields.

For a number of years Gold promoted the idea that many portions of the surface of the Moon were likely to covered with a thick layer of dust. His opinion influenced the design of the American Surveyor lunar landing probes, but this precaution turned out to be unnecessary as Gold had overestimated extent to which cyclic thermal expansion and contraction would pulverise lunar surface rock.

Most recently, Gold is famous for his 1992 paper The Deep Hot Biosphere presented a controversial theory of the origin of oil and gas deposits. Gold believes that most crude oil and natural gas deposits feed bacteria living at extreme depths under the surface of the Earth. He has also published a book of the same title in 1999, which expanded on the arguments in his 1992 paper.

According to Gold and others, these bacteria account for the presence of biological debris in fossil fuels, obviating the need to resort to a biogenic theory for the origin of the latter.

Most western geologists and petrologists consider Gold's theories to be implausible and believe that the biogenic theory of fossil fuel formation adequately explains all observed fossil fuel deposits.

However, recent discoveries have shown that bacteria live at depths far greater than previously believed. Whilst this does not prove Gold's theory, it certainly lends support to its arguments.


  • Gold, T. (1992) The deep, hot biosphere. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 89:6045-6049.
  • Thomas Gold. The Deep Hot Biosphere. Copernicus Books, 1999; ISBN 0387985468.

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