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Biogenesis is the production of new living organisms. Conceptually, biogenesis is sometimes attributed to Louis Pasteur and encompasses the belief that complex living things come only from other living things, by means of reproduction. That is, life does not spontaneously arise from non-living material, which was the position held by spontaneous generation. Pasteur's claim followed Virchow's doctrine Omnis cellula e cellula (all cells from cells), itself derived from work of Robert Remak.
Biogenesis and abiogenesis
The term biogenesis was coined by Henry Charlton Bastian to mean the generation of a life form from nonliving materials; however, Thomas Henry Huxley chose the term abiogenesis and redefined biogenesis for life arising from preexisting life. The generation of life from non-living material is called abiogenesis, and according to it, occurred through stepwise chemical and molecular evolution over millions of years.
Spontaneous generation and its disproof
The Ancient Greeks believed that living things could spontaneously come into being from nonliving matter, and that the goddess Gaia could make life arise spontaneously from stones – a process known as Generatio spontanea. Aristotle disagreed, but he still believed that creatures could arise from dissimilar organisms or from soil. Variations of this concept of spontaneous generation still existed as late as the 17th century, but towards the end of the 17th century, a series of observations and arguments began that eventually discredited such ideas. This advance in scientific understanding was met with much opposition, with personal beliefs and individual prejudices often obscuring the facts.
William Harvey (1578–1657) was an early proponent of all life beginning from an egg, omne vivum ex ovo. Francesco Redi, an Italian physician, proved as early as 1668 that higher forms of life did not originate spontaneously by demonstrating that maggots come from eggs of flies. But proponents of spontaneous generation claimed that this did not apply to microbes and continued to hold that these could arise spontaneously. Attempts to disprove the spontaneous generation of life from non-life continued in the early 19th century with observations and experiments by Franz Schulze and Theodor Schwann. In 1745, John Needham added chicken broth to a flask and boiled it. He then let it cool and waited. Microbes grew, and he proposed it as an example of spontaneous generation. In 1768, Lazzaro Spallanzani repeated Needham's experiment but removed all the air from the flask. No growth occurred. In 1854, Heinrich G. F. Schröder (1810–1885) and Theodor von Dusch, and in 1859, Schröder alone, repeated the Helmholtz filtration experiment and showed that living particles can be removed from air by filtering it through cotton-wool.
In 1864, Louis Pasteur finally announced the results of his scientific experiments. In a series of experiments similar to those performed earlier by Needham and Spallanzani, Pasteur demonstrated that life does not arise in areas that have not been contaminated by existing life. Pasteur's empirical results were summarized in the phrase Omne vivum ex vivo, Latin for "all life [is] from life".
After obtaining his results, Pasteur stated: "La génération spontanée est une chimère" ("Spontaneous generation is a chimera").
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Life, therefore, originated on or was transported to the earth at some point within a window of a few hundred million years that opened about four billion years ago.
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- Biogenesis and Abiogenesis: Critiques and Addresses
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