Meaning of Spontaneous Generation
What is Spontaneous Generation:
Spontaneous generation refers to an ancient theory according to which life can arise spontaneously from matter, either organic or inorganic. This theory is also called abiogenesis.
Ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle had already laid the foundations for the theory of spontaneous generation. The matter was experienced, documented and argued by various scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who gave theoretical shape to what had then become a given belief.
Among the scientists who defended the theory of spontaneous generation are Jan Baptiste van Helmond, Isaac Newton, Descartes and Francis Bacon. They confirmed it by observing processes such as food spoilage.
The experiment developed by Jan Baptiste van Helmond was famous. He kept his clothes mixed with wheat in an open container. After 21 days, after a transformation process, mice were born in the clothes. From there van Helmond and his generation believed they had confirmed the principle of spontaneous generation.
A similar thing was observed with the rotting process of the meat, which seemed to generate larvae without the intervention of flies. Therefore, since the interaction of other living organisms was not visible, the scientists concluded that life was spontaneous.
Spontaneous generation theory vs. biogenesis
However, the spontaneous generation theory was refuted through different experiments carried out throughout history. The refutation of the French scientist Louis Pasteur, born in the 19th century, was decisive for this theory to be invalidated.
Indeed, Louis Pasteur proved, through different experiments, that animal or plant life can only be generated from another already existing living being. This principle was called biogenesis.