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biogenesisβίογένεσις (gr.); Biogenese (ger.)

  • The origination of living organisms from other living organisms, rather than from inanimate matter. (OED 2012)

    The theories of βίογένεσις, already described, and many others, are based upon the following three unwarrantable assumptions, the denial of which, until proved, brings to the ground the entire structure, like a child’s house of cards—I. The indefinite variation of species continuously in the one direction. II. That the causes of variation assigned, viz., cross-breeding (Buffon); imitation (Lamarck); and natural advantage in the struggle for existence (Darwin), are sufficient to account for the effects asserted to be produced. III. That succession implies causation.

    φίλονους [Haughton, S.] (1860). βίογένεσις. The Natural History Review 7, 23-32.


    The hypothesis that living matter always arises by the agency of pre-existing living matter, took definite shape; and had, henceforward, a right to be considered and a claim to be refuted, in each particular case, before the production of living matter in any other way could be admitted by careful reasoners. It will be necessary for me to refer to this hypothesis so frequently, that, to save circumlocution, I shall call it the hypothesis of Biogenesis; and I shall term the contrary doctrine—that living matter may be produced by not living matter—the hypothesis of Abiogenesis.    

    Huxley, T.H. (1870). Address. Nature 2, 400-406: 401.


    A word of explanation seems necessary with regard to the introduction of the new term Archebiosis. I had originally, in unpublished writings [in a letter to John Tyndall], adopted the word Biogenesis to express the same meaning—viz, life-origination or commencement. But in the mean time the word Biogenesis has been made use of, quite independently, by a distinguished biologist [Huxley], who wished to make it bear a totally different meaning. He also introduced the term Abiogenesis. I have been informed, however, on the best authority, that neither of these words can—with any regard to the language from which they are derived—be supposed to bear the meanings which have of late been publicly assigned to them. Wishing to avoid all needless confusion, I therefore renounced the use of the word Biogenesis, and being, for the reason just given, unable to adopt the other term, I was compelled to introduce a new word, in order to designate the process by which living matter is supposed to come into being, independently of pre-existing living matter.   

    Bastian, H. (1871). The Modes of Origin of Lowest Organisms: 11-2.   


    biogenesis The principle that all living organismshave derived from previously existing living organisms; biogenetic; cf. abiogenesis.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 32.