spontaneous generation

noun Biology.

Origin:
1650–60

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World English Dictionary
spontaneous generation
 
n
Also called: abiogenesis a theory, widely held in the 19th century and earlier but now discredited, stating that living organisms could arise directly and rapidly from nonliving material

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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
spontaneous generation  
The supposed development of living organisms from nonliving matter, as maggots from rotting meat. The theory of spontaneous generation for larger organisms was easily shown to be false, but the theory was not fully discredited until the mid-19th century with the demonstration of the existence and reproduction of microorganisms, most notably by Louis Pasteur. Also called abiogenesis.
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Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

spontaneous generation

the hypothetical process by which living organisms develop from nonliving matter; also, the archaic theory that utilizes this process to explain the origin of life. Pieces of cheese and bread wrapped in rags and left in a dark corner, for example, were thus thought to produce mice, according to this theory, because after several weeks, there were mice in the rags. Many believed in spontaneous generation because it explained such occurrences as the appearance of maggots on decaying meat.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
There is no difference between in spontaneous generation and the belief that life was energized by a spark of lightning.
For many centuries, people believed in spontaneous generation, or the ability of life to generate from non-living matter.
The need to convince the skeptical led him to studies of so-called spontaneous generation.
The goal of this letter-writing lesson is the spontaneous generation of letters and their use as a communication tool.
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