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Did Andrew Crosse Create Life in his lab in 1837?

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posted on Feb, 1 2005 @ 11:30 AM
What did Andrew do?

In 1837, a little known scientist named Andrew Crosse created life in his personal laboratory. Although it was accomplished entirely by accident, Andrew carefully documented his procedures and several members of the London Electrical Society were able to duplicate the incident including the infamous Michael Faraday.

Surely a discovery such as this would turn the world on end and make a person an instant hero? Although the entire world did take notice and Andrew was entered in the Dictionary of National Biography, he was far from a hero. In fact, Andrew became one of the most hated men in England, an unfortunate notoriety that would soon destroy him.

Who was Andrew Crosse?

It is well known that Crosse lectured in England during the early 1800's on topics concerning his electrical experimentation. In fact, as a strange side note, there's a pretty good chance that Mary Shelly, author of the book Frankenstein, attended one of Crosse's lectures. At the time of this particular lecture, it's quite possible that Andrew Crosse already had succeeded in creating life or at least came close to it. But, it wasn't until 1837 that the world would be stunned by Crosse's success.

The Experiments

In Crosse's electrical experiments, he was supposedly attempting to create glass crystals. As Colin Wilson explains in his book The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries

He made glass out of grounded flint and potassium carbonate, and dissolved it in hydrochloric acid. His idea was then to allow this fluid to dry, little by little, through a lump of porous stone which had been 'electrified' by a battery, and to see whether it formed crystals.

Crystals were not formed but Crosse noticed a curious side effect. On the porous stone he noticed many small white lumps. He then decided to let the experiment continue. After a week he noted hand like extensions growing out of the white lumps. Later he could tell that they were legs. After four weeks the creatures could easily been seen under a magnifying glass walking around. They appeared to be small insect like creatures. Thinking that possibly insect eggs had contaminated his controlled experiment, he decided to give it another shot and this time carefully control the influence of outside variables.

This time Crosse use air tight containers. Beforehand, all the components were completely sterilized using hot alcohol. The electrical wire entered the sealed container through a glass stopper. The glass was made at a temperature that would melt iron and distilled water was used to mix the concoction, consisting of iron sulfate, copper sulfate, and copper nitrate. Finally, the battery was connected and the slow dripping process began. After a few months Crosse once again noticed the insect like creatures crawling around inside the controlled environment. He was then certain that he had indeed created life.

Ecstatic with his discovery, he immediately documented the results and quickly sent them to the London Electrical Society. Other engineers repeated the experiment with similar success. Soon the entire world was aware of Crosse's experiments and his personal living hell began...

The Aftermath

Clergymen and others all throughout Europe were shocked at the blasphemous atrocity. People closed their doors in his face. Merchants refused to serve him and the local church gathered on his doorstep to perform and exorcism of this demonic beast. Crosse tried to explain that the 'was in humble and lowly reverence of that Great Being' but the world refused to listen. He was an outcast and quickly withdrew from public sight.

The great Michael Faraday defended Crosse before the Royal Institution and claimed that he himself was able to duplicate the experiment and create the strange creatures. All this was to no avail. Crosse died 18 years later a lonely and bitter man.

What we know today

The precise details required to conduct the experiment are not clear in our present day but it is generally accepted that several persons were successful in duplicating Crosse's experiment. It is also known that many more failed...

Those that succeeded described the creatures as tiny 'mites' and even suggested naming the new species Acari Crossii. Detractors insisted that some sort of contamination had occurred and the creatures must have been some sort of common insect.

Time, as is often the case, has blurred the exact method needed to conduct this experiment successfully. Hence, we may never know the how and why the creatures were created or if they indeed were created. But could it be possible that Crosse stumbled across the primordial soup that evolutionist theorize was needed to create the world's first life form...

Found at:

posted on Feb, 1 2005 @ 04:13 PM
Ahhh yes.... the Crosse experiment... Interesting piece of science history, no doubt about it. Intriguing... very intriguing. I personally have several difficulties with these experiments. First of all, the sheer complexity of acari insects that he spontaneously created troubles me. There was no precedent for this back then, and there still isn't now. Despite years and years of research into prebiotic chemistries, nothing resembling life has ever been acheived... not even a 'proto-cell.' It'd be miraculous if one were to generate simple cells, but an entire insect... that, IMO is pushing it. The other thing that's troubling is that no one, save for Faraday has alleged to be able to repeat these experiments. The original poster claims that this could be because "[t]ime... has blurred the exact method needed to conduct this experiment successfully." However, I know of a link that describes his procedure in some detail.

There are references to his work in the mainstream literature. Certainly, Miller, Urey and most of the major players in abiogenesis are aware of these experiments. It bothers me that given what we know about his techniques, no one since (save for Faraday) has claimed to repeat his experiments.

I believe the consensus opinion among scientists is currently that the acari were a species known as Glyophagus Domesticus, an insect which persists in virtually all conditions... hardy little buggers I guess. Other than that it's often claimed that the acari were actually just chemical components that took on the appearance of life. The latter explanation sounds like a bunch of hand waving to me; I know of no examples of chemical constituents sprouting what appear to be legs and walking around. I guess we'll never know, unless someone manages to repeat these experiments.

[edit on 1-2-2005 by mattison0922]

posted on Feb, 1 2005 @ 09:22 PM
I agree. What you described in the experiment shouldn't even provide all the elements needed to make up an insect would it? If it were a one celled organism maybe, if it were amino acids and pre-life I'd be impressed, but this sounds more like spontaneous generation "the old belief that if you threw dirty rags in a corner they would create rats."

posted on Feb, 2 2005 @ 09:54 AM
link offense, but this can't be compared to some old belief that dirty rags could generate the growth of rats. Not a very good analogy at all.

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 09:20 AM
reply to post by Zabilgy

I'm gonna star, flag and bump this thread as i believe it has always avoided the limelight.

I want more speculation on this thread, as i've just (re)discovered it after reading a Tom Slemen book whilst recovering in hospital.

I believe this subject is fascinating and wish i had more to offer, so now i'm going to visit the library and also scour the internet for more information.

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 09:37 AM
reply to post by Zabilgy

His lab was contaminated with mites. That's it. No mystery. No created life. Just mites.

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 10:20 AM
Can you prove that?

As far as as I was aware, the minerals that he formed when conducting electrical currents through them FORMED the mites....

He watched them slowly take shape and develop and then they started moving...

Didn't somebody else repeat the experiment and find similar results? Or were BOTH labs infested with mites?

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 10:21 AM
I collect Frankensteinia and have Peter Haining's book on Crosse. Whatever the explanation, it's a great read and Crosse is a genuinely intriguing bloke and for good or bad, was quite the figure of the times. Yet very few people seem to be aware of him.

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 10:24 AM
Exactly my reasoning for bumping this thread... I'm very interested to hear what other ATS'ers have to say on the subject.

There's not a lot mentioned about him on the net either, but if you can find anything then can you stick some links up please

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 12:39 PM
reply to post by mr-lizard

It's up to whoever performed the experiment to prove it. Anecdotes 171 years after the fact are not evidence, and don't prove squat, apart from that their authors claimed what they claimed.

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 01:10 PM
But you miss my point. The man is long dead and his ideas have been dismissed with no real cause.

As far as I know, this man was alienated as a blasphemer and a 'satanist' of sorts for his studies, yet he never claimed at any point to have been the creator, he was more of an observer.

yet as far as I know his experiment was never recreated...

So why has nobody come forward to disprove his experiment by recreating the situation....

If somebody could recreate the situation and then prove or disprove it to me then i'd be happy, but as yet it seems there's nothing more to mention until more light is shed on the subject.

Interesting though, is the fact that judgement was passed, yet his theory was lost in the times....

posted on Oct, 14 2008 @ 02:44 AM
This is bogus on a large number of levels. On its most basic, for the sake of discussion he did at least create simple single celled organisms. They would not have evolved into small insect like creatures with in a few months.

posted on Oct, 14 2008 @ 07:37 AM
reply to post by mr-lizard

"No real cause"? You mean apart from the complete lack of evidence? Come on! That's more than enough to dismiss any claim.

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