Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/666

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cucumber-infusion was introduced into the chamber, and it was found that the superheating of the infusion did not even retard the development of life. In two days every tube of the chamber was swarming with bacteria. I then passed on to another system of experiment pursued last year, that is, the exposure of the infusions to air calcined by passing a voltaic current through platina-wire, so as to raise the wire to a state of incandescence. Such arrangements are here. We have underneath this shade two wires, and stretching from wire to wire we have a spiral of platinum. Passing a voltaic current through the spiral, it was found last year that five minutes of incandescence were sufficient entirely to sterilize and destroy all germs contained in this air, and to protect the infusions underneath from all contamination; the time of incandescence was doubled this year. The wire was raised as close to the point of fusion as possible; still, notwithstanding all this additional care, the infusions one and all gave way. I thought that there might be some defect in the construction of the apparatus. Here, you see, is an old broken apparatus containing infusions that have remained perfectly good since last year; but great pains were taken in having the apparatus of the most improved form. Still, notwithstanding all my efforts, the infusions broke down and became swarming with life. My attention was now very keenly arrested, and on December 1st I scrutinized more closely than ever I had done previously the entry of the infusions through the pipette tube into the tubes opening into the chamber, and I noticed, at all events, a danger of minute air-bubbles being carried down along with the descending infusion. That caused me to adopt another mode of experiment; but, previously to this, I fell back upon some of the infusions found so easy to sterilize the previous year. I operated upon beef, mutton, pork, and herring infusions, and found that even such infusions, which with the most ordinary care were completely sterilized last year, and are preserved to the present hour intact like the others, all gave way.

How, then, are we to look at these things? Here are results totally different from those that we obtained last year. You may ask me, perhaps: "Why do you not loyally bow to the logic of facts and accept the conclusion to which those experiments apparently so clearly point? Why do you not regard them as a demonstration of the doctrine of spontaneous generation? Is there any other way of accounting for it than by a reference to this doctrine?" You may ask whether I was held back by prejudice from accepting this conclusion, whether I was held back by a love of consistency, or by the fear, of being turned into ridicule and sneered at by those whom I ventured to oppose on a former occasion. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a title which I believe, as the generations pass, will, if the owners of the title are true to themselves, become more and more a title of honor—that is, the title of a man of science—and of that title I should