Spontaneous generation

1765 Spontaneous generation

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Lazzaro Spallanzani biology

Spontaneous generation

Vital principle


Worms have been found in rocks at the bottom of a diamond mine; bacteria has been found deep in volcanic rock.

The theory of spontaneous generation originated with Aristotle, who wrote that the “vital heat” contained in air and water was responsible. Needham exposed his broths to air as they cooled after boiling (insufficiently to kill microbial endospores in the broths), not imagining that air could contain microbes and microbial endospores responsible for what he thought were generated spontaneously.

Apes and chimpanzees have been found to “self-medicate” by eating particular astringent leaves and inner barks to cure themselves of malaria and worms.

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