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Spontaneous Generation

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Everyday observations suggest that certain organisms are spontaneously generated: mushrooms appear suddenly on lawns and manure heaps, the still pond becomes coated with green slime, parasites manifest themselves in animal guts. Spontaneous generation was therefore a widespread belief in most cultures, and it persisted in Europe until the 19th century. We now explain such phenomena in terms of eggs and spores too small to be seen with the naked eye, but such eggs and spores were matters of speculation until microscopes developed into useful instruments.

‘Spontaneous generation’ is really two hypotheses, not one. Abiogenesis is the alleged production of life from matter that is not and never has been living. Heterogenesis is the alleged production of (new) life from matter that was once living or associated with life but is now dead or detached from life, such as corpses or manure. We will need to distinguish between abiogenesis and heterogenesis1 in some parts of this chapter, but mostly we can ignore the distinction and merely write ‘spontaneous generation’.

Keywords

Intestinal Parasite Spontaneous Generation Microorganism Growth Catholic Priest Intestinal Worm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Bibliography

  1. Belloni L (1975) Redi. In: Gillespie CC (ed) Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. XI, pp. 341– 343. American Council of Learned Societies, Charles Schribner's Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Bulloch W (1960) The History of Bacteriology, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, London.Google Scholar
  3. Dobell C (1932) Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and His Little Animals. Bale and Danielsson, London.Google Scholar
  4. Farley J (1977) The Spontaneous Generation Controversy from Descartes to Oparin. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  5. Gasking E (1967) Investigations into Generation 1651–1828. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  6. Harris H (2002) Things Come to Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

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