Publisher Information: London: 1876.
"I Was Able to Obtain Fermentation or Putrefaction with Well Marked Turbidity"
Bastian, Henry Charlton (1837-1915). Autograph letter signed to Jabez Hogg (1817-99). [London,] March 6, 1876. 3pp. 114 x 90 mm. Traces of mounting on blank verso of second leaf, but fine otherwise.
From Henry Bastian, a physician who made notable contributions to the emerging specialty of clinical neurology, and a pioneer writer on theories of the origin of life; to Jabez Hogg, ophthalmologist, microscopist and early adopter of the germ theory of disease.
Bastian published important papers on aphasia (see Garrison-Morton 4622, 4629) and was the first to demonstrate "Bastian's law": that complete section of the upper spinal cord abolishes reflexes and muscular tone below the level of the lesion. Bastian is best known, however, for his defense of the doctrine of spontaneous generation (abiogenesis) in the face of accepted scientific opinion. In opposition to Pasteur, Koch, Tyndall and other bacteriologists, Bastian argued that there was no fixed boundary between organic and inorganic life, stating that "since living matter must have arisen from nonliving matter at an early stage in evolution, such a process could still be taking place" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). He can thus be seen as one of the first to consider the question of the origins of life from a scientific standpoint. Some of Bastian's experimental work in support of his views on abiogenesis (contrary to his intent) ended up advancing the progress of bacteriology. It was Bastian, for example, who showed that boiling did not destroy all bacteria, a finding that led to the discovery of heat-resistant spores.
Bastian's letter to Hogg critiques the findings of John Tyndall, whose recent experiments had shown that air from which all dust and floating particles had been removed was incapable of generating bacterial life. The letter reads in part as follows:
"I have no doubt that your surmises would prove perfectly correct concerning a certain number of Tyndall's solutions. Freedom from turbidity does not by any means imply absence of organisms-but in the experiments which he has imperfectly endeavored to repeat I was able to obtain fermentation or putrefaction with well marked turbidity . . ."
Tyndall had undertaken his experiments specifically to discredit Bastian's theories of spontaneous generation. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Dictionary of Scientific Biography.Book Id: 40225