By Holly Tucker
Open an introduction to genetics textbook, and you’ll find a few preliminary pages on preformationist theory. The underlying message is: Look here, look how far we’ve come. Look at how silly early embryological theory was.
The discovery of the egg and the sperm in 1672 and 1677 changed the way people understood babymaking–and how. Heated debates took place about whether possibly, just possibly, humans existed preformed in either the egg or the sperm. Animaculists argued that shrinky-dink sized beings lay in wait in the head of each sperm.
Ovists argued that tiny humans sat in each egg. At the end of the day, the ovists won out. One of the most difficult aspects of spermist theory to reconcile was the knowledge that there are millions of sperm in a single ejaculation. Surely God would not allow the genocide of all of those beings in a single embrace! And imagine what early thinkers had to say about going solo…