Glenn Jones

Date of Award


Document Type



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Ted Davis, PhD.


Louis Pasteur and Félix Pouchet, two scientists studying the fermentation of organic media, engaged in debate concerning spontaneous generation before the French Académie des sciences in 1864. This instance of clashing paradigms is thought to be one of the most important moments in the historical development and establishment of the germ theory of disease. But was this confrontation an example of truth prevailing through purely scientific discourse, or were other external factors at play in determining the course of the debate? A review of the literature reveals a controversy about this controversy, where historians of science disagree concerning the extent to which external factors affected Pasteur’s success. Studying this scientific debate and the historiographical “meta-controversy” surrounding current scholarship informs an understanding of historical conflicts in science, their termination, and the overall process of acquiring scientific knowledge.