Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/615

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SPONTANEOUS GENERATION.

so obstinate that many hours' boiling would be requisite to deprive them of their power of germination. The absence or presence of a truss of desiccated hay would produce differences as great as those here described. The greatest endurance that I have ever observed—and I believe it is the greatest on record—was a case of survival after eight hours' boiling. As regards their power of resisting heat, the infusorial germs of our atmosphere might be classified under the following and intermediate heads: Killed in five minutes; not killed in five minutes but killed in fifteen; not killed in fifteen minutes but killed in thirty; not killed in thirty minutes but killed in an hour; not killed in an hour but killed in two hours; not killed in two but killed three hours; not killed in three but killed in four hours. I have had several cases of survival after four and five hours' boiling, some survivals after six, and one after eight hours' boiling. Thus far has experiment actually reached, but there is no valid warrant for fixing upon even eight hours as the extreme limit of vital resistance. Probably more extended researches (though mine have been very extensive) would reveal germs more obstinate still. It is also certain that we might begin earlier, and find germs which are destroyed by a temperature far below that of boiling water. In the presence of such facts, to speak of a death-point of bacteria and their germs would be mere nonsense—but of this more anon.

We have now to test one of the principal foundations of the doctrine of spontaneous generation as formulated in this country. With this view, I place before my friend and co-inquirer two liquids which have been kept for six months in one of our sealed chambers, exposed to optically pure air. The one is a mineral solution containing in proper proportions all the substances which enter into the composition of bacteria, the other is an infusion of turnip—it might be any one of a hundred other infusions, animal or vegetable. Both liquids are as clear as distilled water, and there is no trace of life in either of them. They are, in fact, completely sterilized. A mutton-chop, over which a little water has been poured to keep its juices from drying up, has lain for three days upon a plate in our warm room. It smells offensively. Placing a drop of the fetid mutton-juice under a microscope, it is found swarming with the bacteria which live by putrefaction, and without which no putrefaction can occur. With a speck of the swarming liquid I inoculate the clear mineral solution and the clear turnip-infusion, as a surgeon might inoculate an infant with vaccine lymph. In four-and-twenty hours the transparent liquids have become turbid throughout, and, instead of being barren as at first, they are teeming with life. The experiment may be repeated a thousand times with the same invariable result. To the naked eye the liquids at the beginning were alike, being both equally transparent—to the naked eye they are alike at the end, being both equally muddy. Instead of putrid mutton-juice we might take as a source of infection