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Biogenesis vs. Spontaneous Generation

Biogenesis is a term that was coined by British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley in 1870, describing the principle that all living organisms derive from organisms similar to themselves. The principle has been introduced in contradiction with the concept of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation, abiogenesis, refers to the idea that living organisms can spontaneously appear from nonliving matter. A French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, disproved the spontaneous generation theory in the late 19th century.

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Although there have been some speculations and controversy around Pasteur’s experimental methods, he is credited with disproving spontaneous generation. Pasteur designed two experiments in which he added growth medium and yeast extract to flasks and then boiled them to kill any microbes, closing the necks of flasks with a flame (Roll-Hansen, 2018). After the sterilization and cooling of the yeast, he opened some of the flasks, letting the air inside. Opened flasks had the growth of microorganisms in them, while closed ones remained clear. In the second experiment, Pasteur went to the countryside, a mountaintop, and a glacier, where he opened and immediately closed 20 flasks in each place to collect air samples (Roll-Hansen, 2018). Some of these flasks were populated by microbes, whereas others were not. His experimentations have proved that microorganisms do not arise from nonliving materials and that the density of germs in the air is different depending on the place.

Spontaneous generation is an archaic hypothesis that inanimate matter can create life, but Louis Pasteur disproved it. He conducted several experiments and proved the concept of biogenesis that life comes from the reproduction of living organisms. Pasteur’s work finally dispelled the notion that the appearance of maggots on decaying meat is due to the meat creating magots rather than flies.


Roll-Hansen, N. (2018). Revisiting the Pouchet–Pasteur controversy over a spontaneous generation: Understanding experimental method. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 40(68), 1–28. Web.

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