Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/618

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doubt. Boiling water unquestionably exercises a most pernicious and rapidly-destructive effect upon the living matter of which we are composed."[1] And, lest it should be supposed that it is the high organization which, in this case, renders the body susceptible to heat, he refers to the action of boiling water on the hen's-egg to dissipate the notion. "The conclusion," he says, "would seem to force itself upon us that there is something intrinsically deleterious in the action of boiling water upon living matter—whether this matter be of high or of low organization."[2] Again, at another place, "It has been shown that the briefest exposure to the influence of boiling water is destructive of all living matter."[3] Throughout his prolonged disquisitions on this subject, Dr. Bastian makes special kinds of living matter do duty for all kinds. To invalidate the foregoing statements it is only necessary to say that eight years before they were made it had been known to the wool-staplers of Elbœuf, and Pouchet had published the fact in the Comptes-Rendus of the Paris Academy of Sciences[4] that the desiccated seeds of the Brazilian plant medicago survived fully four hours' boiling. Pouchet himself boiled the seeds, and found some of them swollen and disintegrated, while others remained hard and unswollen. Sown in the same earth, the latter germinated while the former did not. So much for the heterogenist's mistake regarding ordinary seeds; we must now examine whether no error underlies his experiments and his reasonings as to "the death-point of bacteria."

The experiments already recorded plainly show that there is a marked difference between the dry bacterial matter of the air, and the wet, soft, and active bacteria of putrefying organic liquids. The one can be luxuriantly bred in the saline solution, the others refuse to be born there, while both of them are copiously developed in a sterilized turnip-infusion. Inferences, as we have already seen, founded on the deportment of the one liquid cannot with the warrant of scientific logic be extended to the other. But this is exactly what the heterogenist has done, thus repeating, as regards the death-point of bacteria, the error into which he fell concerning the germs of the air. Let us boil our muddy mineral solution with its swarming bacteria for five minutes. In the soft, succulent condition in which they exist in the solution not one of them escapes destruction. The same is true of the turnip-infusion if it be inoculated with the living bacteria only—the aërial dust being carefully excluded. In both cases the dead organisms sink to the bottom of the liquid, and without reinoculation no fresh organisms will arise. But the case is entirely different when we inoculate our turnip-infusion with the desiccated germinal matter afloat in the air.

The "death-point" of bacteria is the maximum temperature at

  1. Bastian, "Evolution," p. 133.
  2. Ibid., p. 135.
  3. Ibid., p. 46.
  4. Vol. Ixiii., p. 939.