The Harvard Classics Volume 38 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 554 pages of information about The Harvard Classics Volume 38.
of preparing another flask, exactly similar to the preceding one in every respect, and which gave results identical with those described.  We decanted this November 15th, pouring some wort on the deposit of the plant, which remained in the flask.  In less than five hours from the time we placed it in the oven, the plant started fermentation in the wort, as we could see by the bubbles of gas rising to form patches on the surface of the liquid.  We may add that yeast in the medium which we have been discussing will not develop at all without air.

The importance of these results can escape no one; they prove clearly that the fermentative character is not an invariable phenomenon of yeast-life, they show that yeast is a plant which does not differ from ordinary plants, and which manifests its fermentative power solely in consequence of particular conditions under which it is compelled to live.  It may carry on its life as a ferment or not, and after having lived without manifesting the slightest symptom of fermentative character, it is quite ready to manifest that character when brought under suitable conditions.  The fermentative property, therefore, is not a power peculiar to cells of a special nature.  It is not a permanent character of a particular structure, like, for instance, the property of acidity or alkalinity.  It is a peculiarity dependent on external circumstances and on the nutritive conditions of the organism.


The theory which we have, step by step, evolved, on the subject of the cause of the chemical phenomena of fermentation, may claim a character of simplicity and generality that is well worthy of attention.  Fermentation is no longer one of those isolated and mysterious phenomena which do not admit of explanation.  It is the consequence of a peculiar vital process of nutrition which occurs tinder certain conditions, differing from those which characterize the life of all ordinary beings, animal or vegetable, but by which the latter may be affected, more or less, in a way which brings them, to some extent within the class of ferments, properly so called.  We can even conceive that the fermentative character may belong to every organized form, to every animal or vegetable cell, on the sole condition that the chemico-vital acts of assimilation and excretion must be capable of taking place in that cell for a brief period, longer or shorter it may be, without necessity for recourse to supplies of atmospheric oxygen; in other words, the cell must be able to derive its needful heat from the decomposition of some body which yields a surplus of heat in the process.

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The Harvard Classics Volume 38 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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