In the days of the father of microbiology, Louis Pasteur , the atheistic view of the world and its organization and history was called "positivism. Join the worldwide Magnificat family by subscribing now: Your prayer life will never be the same! The positivists had a low ceiling over their heads. They believed in the finite, or rather they denied the Infinite.
Such a belief or disbelief was not without some dire consequences, as we will see. One of the great disputed questions of Pasteur's time was that of "spontaneous generation. Where did they come from? If you expose the juice of crushed grapes to the air, it will ferment.
See a Problem?
Women in hospitals developed infections after childbirth. What could have infected them? The positivists said that inanimate material in the objects themselves could produce, spontaneously, elementary forms of life. That is, life could come naturally out of non-life.
Independent news email
The cause was, they thought, electricity or magnetism or some other generally active force. Pasteur, wrote his son-in-law, "with his vision of the Infinite, showed himself as religious as [Isaac] Newton. In those days, the last place you wanted to be, if you were operated on, was a hospital. Since the scientific consensus was that disease was produced from within you, surgeons and nurses took no precautions to ensure that disease did not come from outside of you.
But Pasteur, with his microscope and his dogged pursuit of truth, believed that the small organisms he saw in a droplet of blood or pus from a sick animal were themselves the cause, and that they came from without. At the most, surgeons thought that some "miasma" in the air was the culprit, so they used to throw open the windows of surgical wards to clear it out once a day. We have no idea how many women, especially, died in those halls of death called hospitals, just because of the stubbornness of people who put custom or ideology before truth.
What we might give to have been present on that summer day in , when a Christian biochemist from Scotland got to meet Pasteur, whose work he had read about and learned from, and who was mocked and attacked in Britain, as Pasteur had often been mocked in France. Seeing the wrong twists and turns that distracted learned and knowledgeable men. Of course mammalian eggs are terribly difficult to see, so understandable. And most importantly, as Dolnick eloquently points out "Observing was one thing, understanding another.
Terrific book - fascinating topic. Well researched, very well written, well explained. Just terrific - read it! Jun 03, The Irregular Reader rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , funny , sciencey , goodreads-giveaways , historical. Seeds of Life examines the scientific pursuit of the origin and continuation of life from the 16th century through the 19th.
Scientific giants such as da Vinci, Leeuwenhoek, and Harvey would find themselves stymied by this question. In an age of scientific enlightenment and accomplishment, the inability to answer such a seemingly basic question was frustrating to the extreme. The pursuit of this answer led to bitter feuds and rivalries, and at times split the scientific community asunder.
Did the Seeds of Life Come from Space?
Dominick does a great job of bringing this story to life in an engaging and easy to follow way. It is no mean feat to cover such a topic over such a broad time frame, but Dolnick sets the story as a form of detective novel, with various players entering the fray, only to crash on the shoals of an unanswerable question. Dolnick makes the story easy to follow, and adds welcome and some would say, inevitable humor to the topic.
Folks who enjoy their nonfiction with a dash of humor will enjoy this book. It may not be an explosion-laced extravaganza, but it is an entertaining and fast reading true story. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. Sep 04, Larry Meyer rated it it was amazing. Looking for science as mystery, travelogue, religious tract and comic set piece? This is a scientific and even sexy romp through the ages as Ed Dolnick leads us on an informative, witty, page-turning journey through biology, physics and bizarre human inquiry.
Dolnick deftly manages to steer us through labs, morgues, churches, royal fens and rabbit holes as the leading scientists of the centuries fumble and stumble to win the X Prize of human inception. Do Looking for science as mystery, travelogue, religious tract and comic set piece?
Down blind alleys, between the sheets, through rudimentary microscopes and at the sides of the greatest thinkers on high, we chase the big question. The author holds the answer close to the vest until the very end. By the time the truth comes, Reconstruction is underway, robber barons are ramping up and baseball's in formation. The search hopscotches across Europe and through agonizingly slow phases of discovery -- preformation, vital force, ovists v.
Be ready for frustrating misogyny, religious squabbles and painfully hilarious saps of electricity. I'd have sided with the ovists. May 13, Converse rated it it was amazing. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's surprising how recent our grasp on the basics of conception is. The author entertainingly explores the attempts to explain this mystery, starting roughly with Aristotle.
There was much argument over the next two millennia. Not until was the fusion of an egg cell and a sperm cell's nuclei seen. Mammalian egg cells were first observed in In spermatozoa were first observed, but most scientists for about the next years they were dismissed as some sort of parasite infesting t It's surprising how recent our grasp on the basics of conception is. In spermatozoa were first observed, but most scientists for about the next years they were dismissed as some sort of parasite infesting the semen.
The semen itself was thought to act as sort of an on switch for the egg, which once activated allowed the miniature human inside to grow. One of the reasons the sperm were considered unimportant was that there wasn't enough room for a miniature human inside. Only in the s did William Harvey popularize the idea that the female tissue involved most directly in conception was an egg. Before that the idea popularized by the Roman physician Galen, that both men and women produce kinds of semen, held sway. Aristotle had thought that the female contribution to conception was menstrual blood.
Jul 08, Sara rated it it was amazing. This is an exploration into the discoveries that lead to fertilization's discovery. Though I did find a few chapters a little tedious I think overall this book hit the mark. The author is very clear on not being judgmental on the lack of foresight of the scientists' centuries long discovery into life and treats them with some reverence. I do wonder if this book could have been divided into more discoveries on specialization, puberty, development in the womb, but maybe Where do babies come from?
I do wonder if this book could have been divided into more discoveries on specialization, puberty, development in the womb, but maybe he will write another?
The author does a good job infusing wit, commentary, characterization Buffon and Leeuwenhoek especially , and occasional drawings to highlight and energize the story. This is a good book for the history and science nerds. It's not overly dense so even a history fan who didn't enjoy science in school might still enjoy. Aug 03, David rated it really liked it. Organized and grew in the womb from a few cells? No way! Sperm were parasites. Eggs didn't exist in people. Was electricity the long-sought-after vital force? No making fun here of what seem in retrospect silly ideas, or of the often cruel experiments, or assumptions that determined what people saw.
Just real people trying to understand. Puts science into perspective and made me wonder what ideas we now take for granted - it's obvious!!! We have evidence!!! Silly old Dawkins, or Gould, or Hawking, or Wilson, how could they have thought that? Skepticism and wonder and observations and questions like a 5 year old that never end.
I can live with that. Some episodes are interesting e. I am very impressed by Spallanzani's experiments, especially the frogs with boxers! It doesn't seem a necessary trade-off:the rigor and the engaging storytelling should be able to coexist in public science books.
The Seeds of Life - Wowpedia - Your wiki guide to the World of Warcraft
Unfortunately sometimes it can still be observed that when the author tries to make the tone less dry then there is a feeling of the lack of rigor though only a little. As the Some episodes are interesting e. As the author writes in the acknowledgement, we tend to judge the blunders of previous generations with present-day provincialism. Kudos to the author that he indeed conveys why scientists in old days sometimes went astray and made wrong interpretations. Though there are still cases that are described too simplistically, I think it's understandable considering the scope of the book and the difficulty to reconstruct the past.
Sep 03, Judith rated it really liked it Shelves: biology , cultural-history , animals , evolution , medicine , science , religion , science-biology-geology. Though written in a rather amusing style, this book has considerable substance. The title says it all--yes, one researcher did sew tiny pants for male frogs as part of his experiment.
However, there are several points in general that Dolnick's narrative reveals. One, no surprise, but bears repeating, is that we all are handicapped by our current cultural assumptions and "norms". It is hard to think outside the box, when you are not aware that you are in a box.
Secondly, language is figurative an Though written in a rather amusing style, this book has considerable substance. Secondly, language is figurative and the metaphors one uses, or one's culture uses, can trip us up. For example "string theory"--these things are not literally strings, but that is the current metaphor and may lead us unconsciously to the wrong path of investigation.
Having read this book, I find I like Dolnick's style and am looking forward to read some of his other science books. Jun 05, Dave Phalen rated it really liked it. This book is a lot of fun. Of course, we all know "where babies come from," but most of us don't realize just how complicated and frustrating the question "How are babies made? Dolnick brings this search for understanding to light in an entertainingly delightful way.
For my money, he ended just a bit too abruptly, but the ride up until the very end is wonderful. Sep 11, Mike Psaris-Weis rated it it was amazing. We take for granted that the basic building blocks of life are cells, that traits are inherited from both parents, and that sperm cells are required to fertilize an egg. Voucher Codes. Minds Articles. Subscription offers.
Subscription sign in. Read latest edition. UK Edition. US Edition. Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password. Keep me logged in. Try Independent Minds free for 1 month See the options. You can form your own view. Subscribe now. Enter your email address Continue Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid Email already exists. I would like to receive morning headlines Monday - Friday plus breaking news alerts by email.
Update newsletter preferences. Comments Share your thoughts and debate the big issues. Join the discussion. Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines. Create a commenting name to join the debate Submit. Please try again, the name must be unique Only letters and numbers accepted.
Loading comments Please try again, the name must be unique. Post Cancel. There are no Independent Minds comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts. Follow comments Enter your email to follow new comments on this article. Thanks for subscribing! Vote Are you sure you want to submit this vote? Submit vote Cancel. You must be logged in to vote. Report Comment Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Flag comment Cancel. Subscribe to Independent Minds to debate the big issues Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?
Try for free Already registered? Log in. Delete Comment Are you sure you want to delete this comment? Delete comment Cancel.