John Turberville Needham FRS (10 September 1713 – 30 December 1781) was an English biologist and Roman Catholic priest.
He was first exposed to natural philosophy while in seminary school and later published a paper which, while the subject was mostly about geology, described the mechanics of pollen and won recognition in the Botany community.
He did experiments with gravy and later, tainted wheat, in containers. Those experiments seemed to show that life was able to be generated from non-living material, or abiogenesis (spontaneous generation). Lazzaro Spallanzani repeated the experiments but covered the containers which contained the gravy and wheat, which Needham did not do. The living organisms which appeared in Needham's original experiments did not appear. Needham then argued that air was essential for life, including those formed from spontaneous generation and that, because air had been excluded in the experiments of Spallanzani, the 'vegetative force' was destroyed. Spallanzani eventually won out. Another famous experiment Needham did involved boiling chicken broth and sealing it up. Usually boiling kills bacteria, yet some microorganisms still appeared. Supposedly victorious, Needham suggested that there was a life force that produced spontaneous generation.