Meaning of Spontaneous Generation

What is Spontaneous Generation:

Spontaneous generation refers to a ancient theory according to which life can arise spontaneously from mattereither organic or inorganic. This theory is also called abiogenesis.

The philosophers of Greek antiquity, such as Aristotle, had already laid the foundations of the spontaneous generation theory. The matter was experienced, documented and argued by various scientists of the 17th and 18th centuries, who gave theoretical form to what had then become a taken for granted belief.

Among the scientists who defended the theory of spontaneous generation are Jan Baptiste van Helmond, Isaac Newton, Descartes and Francis Bacon. These confirmed it by applying the observation of processes such as the putrefaction of food.

The experiment developed by Jan Baptiste van Helmond was famous. He kept his clothes mixed with wheat in an open container. After 21 days, after a transformation process, mice were born in clothes. Hence van Helmond and his generation believed they had confirmed the principle of spontaneous generation.

A similar thing was observed with the process of putrefaction of meat, which seemed to generate larvae without the intervention of flies. Therefore, since the interaction of other living organisms was not visible, scientists concluded that life was spontaneous.

Theory of spontaneous generation vs. biogenesis

However, the theory of spontaneous generation was refuted through different experiments carried out throughout history. The refutation of the French scientist Louis Pasteur, born in the 19th century, was decisive for this theory to be invalidated.

Indeed, Louis Pasteur verified, through different experiments, that animal or plant life can only be generated from another living being that already exists. This principle was called biogenesis.

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See also

  • Abiogenesis.
  • Generation.