Abiogenesis is the theory about the origin of life that postulates that it is produced by spontaneous generation.
The first record of the emergence of the theory of abiogenesis as the origin of life dates back to 300 BC with Aristotle, who postulates the origin of life by spontaneous generation thanks to a vital force present in the matter called entelechy.
Those who supported the theory of spontaneous generation were later called abiogenists. Some of the leading scientists who defended this position were:
- Flemish chemist Johann Baptiste van Helmont (1579-1644): in his posthumous work in 1667 he describes a recipe that ensured the generation of mice from underwear worn after 21 days.
- the British John Turberville Needham (1713-1781): in 1750 he presents the results of spontaneous generation in his boiled and corked nutritious broths.
- the Frenchman Felix Archimede Pouchet (1800-1872): in 1859 he published his work that indicated the validity of spontaneous generation. In 1864, he lost to Louis Pasteur the Alhumbert prize that sought to validate one of the two theories about the origin of life.
The word abiogenesis derives from the Greek composed of the prefix to which it indicates sin, bio which means life and genesis that refers to birth. This term was coined in 1859 by the British biologist Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), along with the concept of biogenesis, in order to differentiate these two currents.
Abiogenesis and Biogenesis
The positions of abiogenesis and biogenesis clashed scientifically between 1680 and 1740. The defenders of each current created experiments between those years to prove the truth of their theories.
Abiogenesis, a current that supported the spontaneous generation of matter, was invalidated thanks to the experiment conducted by the French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) who demonstrated that a liquid with organic matter can be conserved free of microbes with appropriate methods avoiding generation of life.
The biogenesis theory was confirmed by the Irish physicist John Tyndall (1820-1893) in 1887.