The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria: The Smallest Living Beings, 1872

In his popular essay the bacteriologist, Ferdinand Cohn (1828-1898) described the arrangement of nature as a “cycle of life” in which, “the body in which life has been extinguished succumbs to dissolution, in order that its material may become again serviceable to new life. If the amount of material which can be moulded into living beings is limited on the earth, the same particles of material must ever be converted from dead into living bodies in an eternal circle; if the wandering of the soul be a myth, the wandering of matter is a scientific fact. . . . Since bacteria cause the dead body to come to the earth in rapid putrefaction, they alone cause the springing forth of new life.” (p. 25)



Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1793
Charles Darwin, On the Formation of Vegetable Matter by Worms, 1881
Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858
Dumas and Boussingault, Balance of Organic Matter, 1844
Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria, The Smallest Living Beings, 1872
Louis Pasteur, Etudes sur la Biere, 1862
Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky, 1953
Selman Waksman, Humus, 1939
Vladimir Vernadsky, Principles of Biogeochemistry, 1960
James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520-8298
Office: (203).432.3112

The Sterling Memorial Exhibit is located in the Overflow Case to the left of the circulation desk. The Sterling Memorial Library is located at

120 High Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520
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