Pier Luigi Luisi took a degree in Chemistry at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, and held internships in the USA (Oregon, Institute of Molecular biology) and the Soviet Union (Leningrad, Institute of Macromolecular science). From 1971 to 2003 his professional career was spent at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. He became full professor of Macromolecular Chemistry in the department of Material Science, where he directed the Biopolymers section. He carried out research into the mechanism of enzymes, and the self-organization and self-reproduction of synthetic and natural systems. Subsequently he focused on the origins of life and, later, on synthetic biology, that of minimal cells in particular. Prof. Luisi, when working at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, initiated in 1985 the Cortona-week, an interdisciplinary residential week in which graduate students were working together with artists, musicians, politicians, religious leaders, etc., with the aim of discovering new and broader horizons of life.