Spontaneous generation

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The previously popular notion that living organisms arise or develop from nonliving matter.


The theory of spontaneous generation held that complex, living organisms may be produced from nonliving matter. It was a popular belief that mice occur spontaneously from stored grain, or maggots spontaneously appear in meat.

Related phrases: theory of spontaneous generation.
Synonym: autogenesis, autogeny, abiogenesis.
Compare: biogenesis.