April 20th, 1862 – Louis Paster Debunks Aristotle!

Today-In-History

Spontaneous generation or anomalous generation is now an obsolete body of thought on the ordinary formation of living organisms without descent from similar organisms. Until 1862, the idea was that certain forms such as fleas could arise from inanimate matter such as dust, or that maggots could arise from dead flesh.

Spontaneous generation

A variant idea was that of equivocal generation, in which species such as tapeworms arose from unrelated living organisms, now understood to be their hosts. Doctrines supporting such processes of generation held that these processes are commonplace and regular. Such ideas are in contradiction to that of univocal generation: effectively exclusive reproduction from genetically related parent(s), generally of the same species.

The doctrine of spontaneous generation was coherently synthesized by Aristotle, who compiled and expanded the work of prior natural philosophers and the various ancient explanations of the appearance of organisms; it held sway for two millennia. Today it is generally accepted to have been decisively dispelled during the 19th century by the experiments of Louis Pasteur. He expanded upon the investigations of predecessors (such as Francesco Redi who, in the 17th century, had performed experiments based on the same principles). On April 20th, 1862  Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed the experiment that finally debunked the theory of spontaneous generation.

32 - Pasteur

However, the experimental difficulties are greater than people might think, and objections from persons holding the traditional views persisted. Many of these residual objections were routed by the work of John Tyndall, succeeding the work of Pasteur. Ultimately, the ideas of spontaneous generation were displaced by advances in germ theory and cell theory.

Disproof of the traditional ideas of spontaneous generation is no longer controversial among professional biologists. Objections and doubts have been dispelled by studies and documentation of the life cycles of various life forms. However, the principles of the very different matter of the original abiogenesis on this planet — of living from non-living material — still are under investigation.

Flourish 3

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