How did life begin on the Earth? The units of life are cells, which can be defined as bounded systems of molecules that capture energy and nutrients from the environment -- systems that expand, reproduce, and evolve over time, often into more complex systems. This book is the proceedings of a unique meeting, sponsored by NATO and held in Maratea, Italy, that brought together for the first time an international group of investigators who share an interest in how molecules self-assemble into supramolecular structures, and how those structures may have contributed to the origin of life. The book is written at a moderately technical level, appropriate for use by researchers and by students in upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in biochemistry and molecular biology. The overall interest of its subject matter provides an excellent introduction for students who wish to understand how the foundational kwledge of chemistry and physics can be applied to one of the most fundamental questions w facing the scientific community. The editors are pioneers in defining what we mean by the living state, particularly the manner in which simple molecular systems can assume complex associations and functions, including the ability to reproduce. Each chapter of the book presents an up-to-date report of highly significant research. Two of the authors received medals from the National Academy of Science USA in 1994, and other research reported in the book has been featured in internationally recognized journals such Scientific American, Time, and Discover.