Spontaneous Generation

The Question of Spontaneous Generation

Redi's Experiment

From Louis Pasteur: His Life and Labours by René Vallery-Radot, 1885 ‘All dry bodies,’ said Aristotle, ‘which become damp, and all damp bodies which are dried, engender animal life.’ Bees, according to Virgil, are produced from the corrupted entrails of a young bull. At the time of Louis XIV, we were hardly more advanced. A celebrated alchemist doctor, Van Helmont, ...

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Spontaneous Generation and Pasteur’s Experiments

Chocolate Wrapper - Pasteur Disproves Spontaneous Generation

In the nineteenth century, people believed that organisms could arise spontaneously from their environment, without the presence of any preexisting organisms. After a nutrient broth is sterilized by boiling, and then exposed to air for a few days, a sample can be removed from the flask and transferred to a plate containing a solid medium. Within a few hours, the ...

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On Spontaneous Generation

Louis Pasteur's inaugural lecture at the Acadmey of Sciences

An address delivered by Louis Pasteur at the “Sorbonne Scientific Soirée” of April 7, 18641 Gentlemen! A number of imposing problems now have our best minds in thrall. These include questions regarding the unity or plurality of the races of Man, whether his creation ought to be dated thousands of years or thousands of centuries past, whether species are fixed, ...

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Spontaneous Generation

Pasteur manuscript on spontaneous generation

The mystery of life has puzzled and confounded humans since the first human began to contemplate his world. The religions of ancient societies were built around the seasons, the sun and the renewal of life as these were so clearly tied to survival; both of the human species through birth and death, and of the individual in the attainment of ...

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Pasteur, Pouchet and Heterogenesis

Louis Pasteur doing research in the mountains

Louis Pasteur delivered a heavy blow to the theory of “spontaneous generation” when his famous experiment displayed that fermentation could be prevented even when a fermentable substance was exposed to the atmosphere. However, the debate continued, the science at hand matured and the discussion became much more involved. Some of the chimerical conceptions of creating mice and scorpions from dirty ...

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Louis Pasteur and the History of Spontaneous Generation

Swan Necked Flasks from Pasteur's Laboratory

In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur would find himself at the center of the spontaneous generation debate. However, it was only after centuries of conjecture, assumptions and the earlier scientific discoveries of others that Pasteur had the ability to put forth the crucial experiment that would uproot the theory of spontaneous generation. From the time of the ancient Greeks ...

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Francesco Redi and Spontaneous Generation

The theory of Spontaneous Generation proposed that life or living organisms could be “spontaneously generated” from non living matter. Similar to Louis Pasteur’s spontaneous generation experiment, the 17th century Italian scientist Franceso Redi conducted an experiment to refute the theory of Spontaneous Generation nearly 200 years earlier. Controlled Experiment by Redi Francesco Redi showed that maggots do not spontaneously arise ...

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Spontaneous Generation and the Origin of Life

A 16th century depiction of spontaneous generation of honey bees from a dead ox.

This article was originally published on The Talk Origins Archive on April 26, 2004. Summary What Louis Pasteur and the others who denied spontaneous generation demonstrated is that life does not currently spontaneously arise in complex form from nonlife in nature; he did not demonstrate the impossibility of life arising in simple form from nonlife by way of a long ...

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