Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/612

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clinched by an experiment which will remove every residue of doubt as to the ability of the infusions to sustain life. We open the backdoors of our sealed chambers, and permit the common air with its floating particles to have access to our tubes. For three months they have remained pellucid and sweet—flesh, fish, and vegetable extracts, purer than ever cook manufactured. Three days' exposure to the dusty air suffices to render them muddy, fetid, and swarming with infusorial life. The liquids are thus proved, one and all, ready for putrefaction when the contaminating agent is applied. I invite my colleague to reflect on these facts. How will he account for the absolute immunity of a liquid exposed for months in a warm room to optically pure air, and its infallible putrefaction in a few days when exposed to dust-laden air? He must, I submit, bow to the conclusion that the dust-particles are the cause of putrefactive life. And, unless he accepts the hypothesis that these particles, being dead in the air, are, in the liquid, miraculously kindled into living things, he must conclude that the life we have observed springs from germs or organisms diffused through the atmosphere.

The experiments with hermetically-sealed flasks have reached the number of 940. A sample group of 130 of them were laid before the Royal Society on January 13, 1876. They were utterly free from life, having been completely sterilized by three minutes' boiling. I took special care that the temperatures to which the flasks were exposed should include those previously alleged to be efficient. I copied, indeed, accurately the conditions laid down by our most conspicuous heterogenist, but I failed to corroborate him. He then laid stress on the question of warmth, suddenly adding 30° to the temperatures with which both he and I had previously worked. Waiving all argument or protest against the caprice thus manifested, I met this new requirement also. The sealed tubes, which had proved barren in the Royal Institution, were suspended in perforated boxes, and placed under the supervision of an intelligent assistant in the Turkish Bath in Jermyn Street. From two to six days had been allowed for the generation of organisms in hermetically-sealed tubes. Mine remained in the washing-room of the bath for nine days. Thermometers placed in the boxes, and read off twice or three times a day, showed the temperature to vary from a minimum of 101° to a maximum of 112° Fahr. At the end of nine days the infusions were as clear as at the beginning. They were then removed to a warmer position. A temperature of 115° had been mentioned as particularly favorable to spontaneous generation. For fourteen days the temperature of the Turkish bath hovered about this point, falling once as low as 106°, reaching 116° on three occasions, 118° on one, and 119° on two. The result was quite the same as that just recorded. The higher temperatures proved perfectly incompetent to develop life.

Taking the actual experiment we have made as a basis of calcula-