The theory of spontaneous generation was established by scientists who lived before the seventeenth century who came to the conclusion that living things came from inanimate objects. This theory began to be discarded with the passage of time and Pasteur’s experiments. In turn, the theory of biogenesis establishes that living things arise from existing living things.
The theory of spontaneous generation held that certain forms of animal and plant life arose spontaneously from organic, inorganic matter, or a combination of both. It was a deeply held belief since ancient times. It was described by Aristotle and later supported and accepted by thinkers of the 16th and 17th centuries such as René Descartes, Francis Bacon, or Isaac Newton.
By 1667, Jan Baptiste van Helmont, a Belgian naturalist, exhibited in one of his works that creatures such as lice, ticks, fleas, and worms emerged from our entrails and excrement. In his experiments, he had discovered that adult mice arose from wheat (which he had left in a container in the open air)
Spontaneous generation was supported by the observation of natural processes such as putrefaction.
From the seventeenth century, it began to be objected. One of the most notable experiments was that of Francesco Redi, an Italian physician who demonstrated that flies only spawn in rotting meat if adult flies laid their eggs on it. However, many objected to his findings.
It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that Pasteur managed to demonstrate that this theory was a fallacy and postulated the law of biogenesis.
What is Biogenesis?
It is a theory that states that living things produce other living things. That is, it is a principle that establishes that life only originates from pre-existing life.
All organisms come from organisms of the same type. If life ever originated from inorganic matter, it had to appear in the form of an organized cell, the simplest kind of independent life.
Difference between spontaneous generation and biogenesis
- Spontaneous generation was an established theory since ancient times. He claimed that living things could come from inanimate objects, organic matter, or a combination of both.
- Biogenesis was established by Pasteur after refuting the theory of spontaneous generation. This principle states that life can only come from pre-existing life.