Of Molecules, Form and Life

From Van Helmont to Maturana, a journey through theories while looking down the microscope.

Johann Baptiste Van Helmont (1579-1644) advanced
the theory, that a living organism, such as
a mouse, could spontaneously generate inside of
a vessel, if all necessary conditions were met. He
wrote his Ortus Medicinae in 1667 to describe to
the world his view of science. He proposed a ‘recipe’
which, if followed carefully, should prove that
mice spontaneously generated out of wheat, sweaty
clothes, darkness, time, and some other crucial ingredients.
These mice would be ‘parentless’, they
would not have developed from the conjoining of
two parent-cells, but would be able to mate and create
new mice, which would have exactly the same
anatomy as a mouse born of two parents. According
to Bruno Latour the discussion about spontaneous
generation ‘ended’ 200 years later, in the Académie
des Sciences in Paris, when two scientists, Félix Pouchet
and Louis Pasteur, tried to demonstrate with
their own experiments what each of them thought
to be true. 

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Of Molecules, Form and Life
June 26, 2017