Born in Uglich in 1894, Oparin graduated from the Moscow State University in 1917 and became a professor of biochemistry there in 1927. Many of his early papers were about plant enzymes and their role in metabolism. In 1924 he put forward a hypothesis suggesting that life on Earth developed through a gradual chemical evolution of carbon-based molecules in the Earth's primordial soup. In 1935, along with academician
Alexey Bakh, he founded the Biochemistry Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In 1939, Oparin became a Corresponding Member of the Academy, and, in 1946, a full member. In 1940s and 1950s he supported the theories of Trofim Lysenko and Olga Lepeshinskaya, who made claims about "the origin of cells from noncellular matter". "Taking the party line" helped advance his career. In 1970, he was elected President of the International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life. He died in Moscow on April 21, 1980, and was interred in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
Oparin became Hero of Socialist Labour in 1969, received the Lenin Prize in 1974 and was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal in 1979 "for outstanding achievements in biochemistry". He was also a five-time recipient of the Order of Lenin.