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the principle that a living organism must originate from a parent organism similar to itself
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



theories denying the appearance of life on earth as the result of the origin of living organisms from nonliving matter. The basis of the concept of biogenesis lies in the contrast between the living and the nonliving and in the idea of the eternalness of life. Proponents of biogenesis assumed that the embryos of living organisms were carried to the earth from other, older celestial bodies—the theory of panspermia. This theory was supported by the German chemist J. von Liebig, the physicist and physiologist H. Helmholtz, the Swedish chemist S. A. Arrhenius, and others who opposed the theory of panspermia to the notion that was prevalent in the mid-19th century of the spontaneous generation of complex animals (worms, flies, and others) from spoiled meat, dirt, and such. The authors of the theory of biogenesis argued that the transfer of embryos was theoretically possible, since given the absence of oxygen and given the low temperature of cosmic space they could remain in a state of anabiosis. However, it was later ascertained that cosmic rays exert a destructive effect even on extremely hardy bacterial spores. F. Engels pointed out the mistaken nature of the theory; he felt that the notion of the hardiness of the life-bearing material (protein) required by the theory of biogenesis contradicted the data on its chemical properties and that the notion of the eternalness of the primal carriers of life was incompatible with the historical outlook on living nature (see Dialektika prirody, 1969, pp. 263–64).


Oparin, A. I. Zhizn’, ee priroda, proiskhozhdenie i razvitie, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Development of a living organism from a similar living organism.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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