The international team, comprising Spanish, US and Mexican scientists, has not only examined in detail the phrases, texts and paragraphs of the letters, but has also put into context all Darwin's opinions on the origins of life, available online and in the original manuscripts.
The origin of life hypothesis
A comment in a notebook dating back to 1837, in which Darwin explains that "the intimate relationship between the vital phenomena with chemistry and its laws makes the idea of spontaneous generation conceivable", gave the researchers their clue.
In another famous letter sent in 1871 to his friend, the English botanist and explorer Joseph D. Hooker, Charles Darwin imagines a small, warm pool where the inanimate matter would arrange itself into evolutionary matter, aided by chemical components and sufficient sources of energy.
In other letters, the naturalist admitted to colleagues such as Alfred Russel Wallace or Ernst Haeckel that spontaneous generation was important to the coherence of the theory. However, "at the same time, he acknowledged that science was not advanced enough to deal with the question (hence his reluctance to speak of it in public) and that he would not live to see it resolved", Peret points out.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology