the luminous beam to be optically pure and therefore germless. Having worked at the subject both by experiment and reflection, on Friday evening, the 21st of January, 1870, I brought it before the members of the Royal Institution. Two or three months subsequently, for sufficient practical reasons, I ventured to direct public attention to the subject in a letter to the Times. Such was my first contact with this important question.
This letter, I believe, gave occasion for the first public utterance of Dr. Bastian in relation to this question. He did me the honor to inform me, as others had informed Pasteur, that the subject "pertains to the biologist and physician." He expressed "amazement" at my reasoning, and warned me that before what I had done could be undone "much irreparable mischief might be occasioned." With far less preliminary experience to guide and warn him, Dr. Bastian was far bolder than Pouchet in his experiments, and far more adventurous in his conclusions. With organic infusions he obtained the results of his celebrated predecessor, but he did far more—the atoms and molecules of inorganic liquids passing under his manipulation into those more "complex chemical compounds" which we dignify by calling them "living organisms." For five years, or thereabouts, Dr. Bastian ploughed the field without impediment from me, and, now that one can overlook the work, I am bound in truth to say that very wonderful ploughing it has been. As regards the public who take an interest in such things, and apparently also as regards a large portion of the medical profession, he certainly succeeded in restoring the subject to a state of uncertainty similar to that which followed the publication of Pouchet's volume in 1859.
It is desirable that this uncertainty should be removed from the public mind, and doubly desirable on practical grounds that it should be removed from the minds of medical men. In the present article, therefore, I propose discussing this question face to face with some eminent and fair-minded member of the medical profession who, as regards spontaneous generation, entertains views adverse to mine. Such a one it would be easy to name; but it is perhaps better to rest in the impersonal. I shall therefore simply call my proposed co-inquirer my friend. With him at my side I shall endeavor, to the best of my ability, so to conduct this discussion that he who runs may read, and that he who reads may understand.
Let us begin at the beginning. I ask my friend to step into the laboratory of the Royal Institution, where I place before him a basin of thin turnip-slices barely covered with distilled water kept at a temperature of 120° Fahr. After digesting the turnip for four or
- "It is further held that bacteria or allied organisms are prone to be engendered as correlative products, coming into existence in the several fermentations, just as independently as other less complex chemical compounds."—(Bastian, "Transactions of the Pathological Society," vol. xxvi., p. 258.)