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The obsolete concept that plant and animal life arise from nonliving organic matter. Also known as autogenesis; spontaneous generation.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the theory of the origin of living organisms from inorganic substance. Until the middle of the 19th century, abiogenesis was understood as spontaneous generation, that is, the sudden origin of complex living organisms from nonliving matter. Thus, as late as the 17th century, people believed in the spontaneous generation of worms, fish, frogs, and even mice from dew, slime, and mud. However, the Italian scientist F. Redi showed in 1668 that maggots develop in putrid meat only from the eggs laid by flies. In the 18th century the Italian scientist L. Spallanzani demonstrated that microorganisms do not develop in thoroughly boiled broth. This was definitely proved in 1861 by the French scientist L. Pasteur, whose experiments, however, did not disprove the theory that abiogenesis could have taken place in earlier geological periods. F. Engels criticized biogenesis, that is, the theory of eternal life. He believed that life is a particular form of the movement of matter, arising at definite stages of its development.

At present, most scientists believe that the origin of life is a lengthy process that took place on earth in distant geological periods, when conditions (the temperature; the chemical composition of the gas, liquid, and solid layers of the earth; and radiation) were vastly different from those of today. One of the best-known theories of abiogenesis was developed by the Soviet scientist A. I. Oparin.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
et al., 'Abiogenic methanogenesis in crystalline rocks,' Geochimica et Cosmochimica acta, 57:5087-5097, 1993.
et al., 'Abiogenic formation of alkanes in the Earth's crust as a minor source for global hydrocarbon reservoirs,' Nature, 416:522-524, 2002.
Seewald et al., "Abiogenic hydrocarbon production at lost city hydrothermal field," Science, vol.
Lacrampe-Couloume, "Abiogenic formation of alkanes in the earth's crust as a minor source for global hydrocarbon reservoirs," Nature, vol.
Slater, "Isotopic signatures of CH4 and higher hydrocarbon gases from Precambrian Shield sites: A model for abiogenic polymerization of hydrocarbons," Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol.
The observation of abiogenic production of isotopically depleted hydrocarbons, both in laboratory studies and in the field, raises significant questions regarding the conclusion of Schidlowski (2001) and others that isotopically depleted organic carbon observed in ancient rocks is a biosignature.
Horita, J., and Berndt, M.E., 1999, Abiogenic methane formation and isotopic fractionation under hydrothermal conditions: Science, v.
Slater et al., "Unravelling abiogenic and biogenic sources of methane in the Earth's deep subsurface," Chemical Geology, vol.
Treloar, "Abiogenic Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of hydrocarbons in alkaline igneous rocks; fluid inclusion, textural and isotopic evidence from the Lovozero complex, N.W.
Sherwood Lollar, B., Lacrampe-Couloume, G., Slater, G.F., Ward, J., Moser, D.P., Gihring, T.M., Lin, L.H., and Onstott, T.C., 2006, Unravelling abiogenic and biogenic sources of methane in the Earth's deep subsurface: Chemical Geology, v.
Jin et al., "Abnormal carbon and hydrogen isotopes of alkane gases from the Qingshen gas field, Songliao Basin, China, suggesting abiogenic alkanes?" Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, vol.