Louis Pasteur photographed by Pierre Lamy Petit
December 27, 1822|
Dole, Jura, Franche-Comté, France
|Died||September 28, 1895
Marnes-la-Coquette, Hauts-de-Seine, France
University of Strasbourg
Lille University of Science and Technology
École Normale Supérieure
|Alma mater||École Normale Supérieure|
|Notable students||Charles Friedel1|
Louis Pasteur (pron.: / /, French: [lwi pastœʁ]; December 27, 1822 – September 28, 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist who was one of the most important founders of medical microbiology. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His experiments supported the germ theory of disease. He was best known to the general public for inventing a method to treat milk and wine in order to prevent it from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch. He worked chiefly in Paris.
Pasteur also made many discoveries in the field of chemistry, most notably the molecular basis for the asymmetry of certain crystals.2 His body lies beneath the Pasteur Institute in a spectacular vault covered in depictions of his accomplishments in Byzantine mosaics.3 In 1887 he founded the Pasteur Institute.
Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822, in Dole in the Jura region of France, into the family of a poor tanner. Jean-Joseph Pasteur was his father and Jeanne-Etiennette Roqui his mother. Louis grew up in the town of Arbois.2 This fact probably instilled in the younger Pasteur the strong patriotism that later was a defining element of his character. Louis Pasteur was an average student in his early years, but he was gifted in drawing and painting. His pastels and portraits of his parents and friends, made when he was 15, were later kept in the museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree (1840) and Bachelor of Science degree (1842) at the École Normale Supérieure. After serving briefly as professor of physics at Dijon Lycée in 1848, he became professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg,2 where he met and courted Marie Laurent, daughter of the university's rector, in 1849. They were married on May 29, 1849, and together had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood; the other three died of typhoid. These personal tragedies inspired Pasteur to try to find cures for diseases such as typhoid.
In 1854, Pasteur was named Dean of the new Faculty of Sciences in Lille. It was on this occasion that Pasteur uttered his oft-quoted remark: "dans les champs de l'observation, le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés" (In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.4) In 1856, he moved to Paris as the director of scientific studies at the École Normale Supérieure. Pasteur took control of the 'École Normale' (1858–67) and began a series of reforms. The examinations became more rigid, which led to better results, greater competition, and increased prestige. He raised the standard of scientific work, leading to two serious student revolts2
In Pasteur's early work as a chemist, he resolved a problem concerning the nature of tartaric acid (1848).56789 A solution of this compound derived from living things (specifically, wine lees) rotated the plane of polarization of light passing through it. The mystery was that tartaric acid derived by chemical synthesis had no such effect, even though its chemical reactions were identical and its elemental composition was the same.10 This was the first time anyone had demonstrated chiral molecules.
Germ theory of fermentation
Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation is caused by the growth of micro-organisms, and the emergent growth of bacteria in nutrient broths is due not to spontaneous generation,2 but rather to biogenesis (Omne vivum ex vivo "all life from life").
He exposed boiled broths to air in vessels that contained a filter to prevent all particles from passing through to the growth medium, and even in vessels with no filter at all, with air being admitted via a long tortuous tube that would not allow dust particles to pass. Nothing grew in the broths unless the flasks were broken open, showing that the living organisms that grew in such broths came from outside, as spores on dust, rather than spontaneously generated within the broth. This was one of the last and most important experiments disproving the theory of spontaneous generation. The experiment also supported germ theory.2
While Pasteur was not the first to propose the germ theory (Girolamo Fracastoro, Agostino Bassi, Friedrich Henle and others had suggested it earlier), he developed it and conducted experiments that clearly indicated its correctness and managed to convince most of Europe that it was true. Today, he is often regarded as the father of germ theory and bacteriology, together with Robert Koch.11
Pasteur's research also showed that the growth of micro-organisms was responsible for spoiling beverages, such as beer, wine and milk. With this established, he invented a process in which liquids such as milk were heated to kill most bacteria and moulds already present within them. Claude Bernard and he completed the first test on April 20, 1862. This process was soon afterwards known as pasteurization.11
Beverage contamination led Pasteur to the idea that micro-organisms infecting animals and humans cause disease. He proposed preventing the entry of micro-organisms into the human body, leading Joseph Lister to develop antiseptic methods in surgery.
In 1865, two parasitic diseases called pébrine and flacherie were killing great numbers of silkworms at Alais (now Alès). Pasteur worked several years proving that these diseases were caused by a microbe attacking silkworm eggs, and that eliminating the microbe in silkworm nurseries would eradicate the disease.211
Immunology and vaccination
Pasteur's later work on diseases included work on chicken cholera. During this work, a culture of the responsible bacteria had spoiled and failed to induce the disease in some chickens he was infecting with the disease. Upon reusing these healthy chickens, Pasteur discovered he could not infect them, even with fresh bacteria; the weakened bacteria had caused the chickens to become immune to the disease, though they had caused only mild symptoms.211
His assistant, Charles Chamberland (of French origin), had been instructed to inoculate the chickens after Pasteur went on holiday. Chamberland failed to do this, but instead went on holiday himself. On his return, the month-old cultures made the chickens unwell, but instead of the infection's being fatal, as it usually was, the chickens recovered completely. Chamberland assumed an error had been made, and wanted to discard the apparently faulty culture when Pasteur stopped him. Pasteur guessed the recovered animals now might be immune to the disease, as were the animals at Eure-et-Loir that had recovered from anthrax.12
Pasteur publicly claimed he had made the anthrax vaccine by exposing the bacilli to oxygen. His laboratory notebooks, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, in fact show Pasteur used the method of rival Jean-Joseph-Henri Toussaint, a Toulouse veterinary surgeon, to create the anthrax vaccine.1013 This method used the oxidizing agent potassium dichromate. Pasteur's oxygen method did eventually produce a vaccine but only after he had been awarded a patent on the production of an anthrax vaccine.
The notion of a weak form of a disease causing immunity to the virulent version was not new; this had been known for a long time for smallpox. Inoculation with smallpox was known to result in far less scarring, and greatly reduced mortality, in comparison with the naturally acquired disease. Edward Jenner had also discovered vaccination, using cowpox to give cross-immunity to smallpox (in 1796), and by Pasteur's time this had generally replaced the use of actual smallpox material in inoculation. The difference between smallpox vaccination and anthrax or chicken cholera vaccination was that the weakened form of the latter two disease organisms had been "generated artificially", so a naturally weak form of the disease organism did not need to be found.
This discovery revolutionized work in infectious diseases, and Pasteur gave these artificially weakened diseases the generic name of "vaccines", in honour of Jenner's discovery. Pasteur produced the first vaccine for rabies by growing the virus in rabbits, and then weakening it by drying the affected nerve tissue.
The rabies vaccine was initially created by Emile Roux, a French doctor and a colleague of Pasteur who had been working with a killed vaccine produced by desiccating the spinal cords of infected rabbits. The vaccine had been tested only on 11 dogs before its first human trial.210
This vaccine was first used on 9-year old Joseph Meister, on July 6, 1885, after the boy was badly mauled by a rabid dog.10 This was done at some personal risk for Pasteur, since he was not a licensed physician and could have faced prosecution for treating the boy. After consulting with colleagues, Pasteur decided to go ahead with the treatment. Meister did not contract the disease. It is sometimes said that Pasteur saved the boy's life, but this cannot be maintained with certainty, since the risk of contracting rabies after such an exposure is estimated at around 15%.14 Nonetheless, Pasteur was hailed as a hero and the legal matter was not pursued. The treatment's success laid the foundations for the manufacture of many other vaccines. The first of the Pasteur Institutes was also built on the basis of this achievement.10
Pasteur himself was absolutely fearless. Anxious to secure a sample of saliva straight from the jaws of a rabid dog, I once saw him with the glass tube held between his lips draw a few drops of the deadly saliva from the mouth of a rabid bull-dog, held on the table by two assistants, their hands protected by leather gloves.
Because of his study in germs, Pasteur encouraged doctors to sanitize their hands and equipment before surgery. Prior to this, few doctors or their assistants practiced these procedures.
The Institut Pasteur was founded in 1887 by Pasteur to perpetuate his commitment to basic research and its practical applications. As soon as his institute was created, Pasteur brought together scientists with various specialties. The first five departments were directed by two normaliens (graduates of the École Normale Supérieure): Emile Duclaux (general microbiology research) and Charles Chamberland (microbe research applied to hygiene), as well as a biologist, Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (morphological microbe research) and two physicians, Jacques-Joseph Grancher (rabies) and Emile Roux (technical microbe research). One year after the inauguration of the Institut Pasteur, Roux set up the first course of microbiology ever taught in the world, then entitled Cours de Microbie Technique (Course of microbe research techniques).
Faith and spirituality
His grandson, Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot, wrote that Pasteur had only kept from his Catholic background a spiritualism without religious practice,15 although Catholic observers often said Louis Pasteur remained throughout his whole life an ardent Christian, and his son-in-law, in perhaps the most complete biography of Louis Pasteur, writes:
Absolute faith in God and in Eternity, and a conviction that the power for good given to us in this world will be continued beyond it, were feelings which pervaded his whole life; the virtues of the gospel had ever been present to him. Full of respect for the form of religion which had been that of his forefathers, he came simply to it and naturally for spiritual help in these last weeks of his life.16
Maurice Vallery-Radot, grandson of the brother of the son-in-law of Pasteur and outspoken Catholic, also holds that Pasteur fundamentally remained Catholic.17 According to both Pasteur Vallery-Radot and Maurice Vallery-Radot, the following well-known quotation attributed to Pasteur is apocryphal:18 "The more I know, the more nearly is my faith that of the Breton peasant. Could I but know all I would have the faith of a Breton peasant's wife".2 According to Maurice Vallery-Radot,19 the false quotation appeared for the first time shortly after the death of Pasteur.20 However, despite his belief in God, it has been said that his views were that of a freethinker rather than a Catholic, a spiritual more than a religious man.212223 He was also against mixing science with religion.2425
Pasteur's principal works are:2
|French Title||Year||English Title|
|Etudes sur le Vin||1866||Studies on Wine|
|"Etudes sur le Vinaigre"||1868||Studies on Vinegar|
|"Etudes sur la Maladie des Vers à Soie" (2 volumes)||1870||Studies on Silk Worm Disease|
|; "Quelques Réflexions sur la Science en France"||1871||Some Reflections on Science in France|
|"Etudes sur la Bière"||1876||Studies on Beer|
|"Les Microbes organisés, leur rôle dans la Fermentation, la Putréfaction et la Contagion'"||1878||Microbes organized, their role in fermentation, putrefaction and the Contagion|
|"Discours de Réception de M.L. Pasteur à l'Académie française"||1882||Speech by Mr L. Pasteur on reception to the Académie française|
|"Traitement de la Rage"||1886||Treatment of Rabies|
Honours and final days
Pasteur's death occurred in 1895, near Paris, from complications of a series of strokes that had started in 1868.10 He was buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but his remains were reinterred in a crypt in the Institut Pasteur, Paris, where he is remembered for his life-saving work.
He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1853, promoted to Commander in 1868, to Grand Officer in 1878 and made a Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor–one of only 75 in all of France - in 1881.
In many localities worldwide, streets are named in his honor. For example, in the USA: Palo Alto and Irvine, California, Boston and Polk, Florida, adjacent to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Jonquière, Québec; San Salvador de Jujuy and Buenos Aires (Argentina), Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, in the United Kingdom, Jericho and Wulguru in Queensland, (Australia); Phnom Penh in Cambodia; Ho Chi Minh City; Batna in Algeria; Bandung in Indonesia, Tehran in Iran, adjacent to the Odessa State Medical University in Odessa, Ukraine; Milan in Italy and Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timişoara in Romania. The Avenue Pasteur in Saigon, Vietnam, is one of the few streets in that city to retain its French name.
In his honor, a statue of him located on the campus of San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California. Also, there is a Pasteur institute in Ootacamund, a hill station in south India, which is involved in vaccine trials and also rabies diagnosis.
A bronze bust of Pasteur resides on the French Campus of Kaiser Permanente's San Francisco Medical Center in San Francisco, California. The sculpture was designed by Harriet G. Moore and cast in 1984 by Artworks Foundry.29
Allegations of deception
In 1995, the centennial of the death of Louis Pasteur, the New York Times ran an article titled "Pasteur's Deception". After having thoroughly read Pasteur's lab notes, the science historian Gerald L. Geison declared Pasteur had given a misleading account of the preparation of the anthrax vaccine used in the experiment at Pouilly-le-Fort.30 Max Perutz published a vigorous defense of Pasteur in the New York Review of Books.31
- Modern medicine
- Infection control
- Infectious disease
- Pasteur Institute
- The Story of Louis Pasteur (a 1936 biographical film)
- Asimov, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology 2nd Revised edition
- James J. Walsh (1913). "Louis Pasteur". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Campbell, D. M. (January 1915). "The Pasteur Institute of Paris". American Journal of Veterinary Medicine (Chicago, Ill.: D. M. Campbell) 10 (1): 29–31. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
- L. Pasteur, "Discours prononcé à Douai, le 7 décembre 1854, à l'occasion de l'installation solennelle de la Faculté des lettres de Douai et de la Faculté des sciences de Lille" (Speech delivered at Douai on December 7, 1854 on the occasion of his formal inauguration to the Faculty of Letters of Douai and the Faculty of Sciences of Lille), reprinted in: Pasteur Vallery-Radot, ed., Oeuvres de Pasteur (Paris, France: Masson and Co., 1939), vol. 7, page 131.
- L. Pasteur (1848) "Mémoire sur la relation qui peut exister entre la forme cristalline et la composition chimique, et sur la cause de la polarisation rotatoire" (Memoir on the relationship which can exist between crystalline form and chemical composition, and on the cause of rotary polarization)," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences (Paris), vol. 26, pages 535-538.
- L. Pasteur (1848) "Sur les relations qui peuvent exister entre la forme cristalline, la composition chimique et le sens de la polarisation rotatoire" (On the relations that can exist between crystalline form, and chemical composition, and the sense of rotary polarization), Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 3rd series, vol. 24, no. 6, pages 442-459.
- George B. Kauffman and Robin D. Myers (1998)"Pasteur's resolution of racemic acid: A sesquicentennial retrospect and a new translation," The Chemical Educator, vol. 3, no. 6, pages (?).
- H. D. Flack (2009) "Louis Pasteur's discovery of molecular chirality and spontaneous resolution in 1848, together with a complete review of his crystallographic and chemical work," Acta Crystallographica, Section A, vol. 65, pages 371-389.
- Joseph Gal: Louis Pasteur, Language, and Molecular Chirality. I. Background and Dissymmetry, Chirality 23 (2011) 1−16.
- David V. Cohn (December 18, 2006). "Pasteur". University of Louisville. Retrieved 2007-12-02. "Fortunately, Pasteur's colleagues Chamberlain sic and Roux followed up the results of a research physician Jean-Joseph-Henri Toussaint, who had reported a year earlier that carbolic-acid/heated anthrax serum would immunize against anthrax. These results were difficult to reproduce and discarded although, as it turned out, Toussaint had been on the right track. This led Pasteur and his assistants to substitute an anthrax vaccine prepared by a method similar to that of Toussaint and different from what Pasteur had announced."
- Ullmann, Agnes (August 2007). "Pasteur-Koch: Distinctive Ways of Thinking about Infectious Diseases". Microbe (American Society for Microbiology) 2 (8): 383–7. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
- Sternberg, George M. (1901). A Textbook of Bacteriology. New York: William Wood and Company. pp. 278–9.
- Adrien Loir (1938). [A l'ombre de Pasteur A l'ombre de Pasteur] Check
|chapter-url=missing title (help). Le mouvement sanitaire. pp. 18, 160.
- Melanie Di Quinzio, MD MSc and Anne McCarthy, MD MSc "Rabies risk among travellers" CMAJ fact sheet .
- Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Letter to Paul Dupuy, 1939, quoted by Hilaire Cuny, Pasteur et le mystère de la vie, Paris, Seghers, 1963, p. 53–54. Patrice Pinet, Pasteur et la philosophie, Paris, 2005, p. 134–135, quotes analogous assertions of Pasteur Vallery-Radot, with references to Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Pasteur inconnu, p. 232, and André George, Pasteur, Paris, 1958, p. 187. According to Maurice Vallery-Radot (Pasteur, 1994, p. 378), the false quotation appeared for the first time in the Semaine religieuse .... du diocèse de Versailles, October 6, 1895, p. 153, shortly after the death of Pasteur.
- (Vallery-Radot 1911, vol. 2, p. 240)
- Vallery-Radot, Maurice (1994). Pasteur. Paris: Perrin. pp. 377–407.
- Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Letter to Paul Dupuy, 1939, quoted by Hilaire Cuny, Pasteur et le mystère de la vie, Paris, Seghers, 1963, p. 53–54.
- Pasteur, 1994, p. 378.
- In Pasteur's Semaine religieuse .... du diocèse de Versailles, October 6, 1895, p. 153.
- Joseph McCabe (1945). A Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers. Haldeman-Julius Publications. Retrieved 11 August 2012. "The anonymous Catholic author quotes as his authority the standard biography by Vallery-Radot, yet this describes Pasteur as a freethinker; and this is confirmed in the preface to the English translation by Sir W. Osler, who knew Pasteur personally. Vallery-Radot was himself a Catholic yet admits that Pasteur believed only in "an Infinite" and "hoped" for a future life. Pasteur publicly stated this himself in his Academy speech in 1822 (in V.R.). He said: "The idea of God is a form of the idea of the Infinite whether it is called Brahma, Allah, Jehova, or Jesus." The biographer says that in his last days he turned to the Church but the only "evidence" he gives is that he liked to read the life of St. Vincent de Paul, and he admits that he did not receive the sacraments at death. Relatives put rosary beads in his hands, and the Catholic Encyclopedia claims him as a Catholic in virtue of the fact and of an anonymous and inconclusive statement about him. Wheeler says in his Dictionary of Freethinkers that in his prime Pasteur was Vice-President of the British Secular (Atheist) Union; and Wheeler was the chief Secularist writer of the time. The evidence is overwhelming. Yet the Catholic scientist Sir Bertram Windle assures his readers that "no person who knows anything about him can doubt the sincerity of his attachment to the Catholic Church," and all Catholic writers use much the same scandalous language."
- Patrice Debré (2000). Louis Pasteur. JHU Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780801865299. "Does this mean that Pasteur was bound to a religious ideal? His attitude was that of a believer, not of a sectarian. One of his most brilliant disciples, Elie Metchnikoff, was to attest that he spoke of religion only in general terms. In fact, Pasteur evaded the question by claiming quite simply that religion has no more place in science than science has in religion. ...A biologist more than a chemist, a spiritual more than a religious man, Pasteur was held back only by the lack of more powerful technical means and therefore had to limit himself to identifying germs and explaining their generation."
- Brendon Barnett (May 31, 2011). "Louis Pasteur: A Religious Man?". Pasteur Brewing. Retrieved 11 August 2012. "However, unlike many others, Pasteur asserted the preeminence of hypotheses over religious or metaphysical prejudices and always seemed willing to abandon theories that were outdated or useless in practicality. Pasteur often saw religion as a hinderance to scientific progress. In 1874, presiding over the award ceremony at the Collège of Arbois, he clearly stated his position: "I know that the word free thinker is written somewhere within our walls as a challenge and an affront. Do you know what most of the free thinkers want? Some want the freedom not to think at all and to be fettered by ignorance; others want the freedom to think badly; and others still, the freedom to be dominated by what is suggested to them by instinct and to despise all authority and all tradition. Freedom of thought in the Cartesian sense, freedom to work hard, freedom to pursue research, the right to arrive at such truth as is accessible to evidence and to conform one's conduct to these exigencies--oh! let us vow a cult to this freedom; for this is what has created modern society in its highest and most fruitful aspects." Pasteur had great respect for the unknown and the infinite, but did not allow himself to become a victim of superstition and fanatical religious explanations."
- Brendon Barnett (May 31, 2011). "Louis Pasteur: A Religious Man?". Pasteur Brewing. Retrieved 11 August 2012. "Louis Pasteur did not deny religion, but was compelled to say that, "religion has no more place in science than science has in religion." The role of religion in his mind was clear: "In each one of us there are two men, the scientist and the man of faith or of doubt. These two spheres are separate, and woe to those who want to make them encroach upon one another in the present state of our knowledge!""
- Patrice Debré (2000). Louis Pasteur. JHU Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780801865299.
- "Author Query for 'Pasteur'". International Plant Names Index.
- Sevan Nişanyan: Yanlış Cumhuriyet İstanbul: Kırmızı Yayınları 2009, S. 263.
- Pasteur Foundation, Pasteur Memorials USA
- "Louis Pasteur, (sculpture)". Save Outdoor Sculpture!. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- See Gerald Geison, The Private Science of Louis Pasteur, Princeton University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-691-01552-X. May 1995 NY Times  
- Dec. 21, 1995 NY Review of Books , letters  
- Debré, P.; E. Forster (1998). Louis Pasteur. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5808-9.
- Duclaux, E.Translated by Erwin F. Smith and Florence Hedges (1920). Louis Pasteur: The History of a Mind. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: W. B. Saunders Company. Unknown parameter
- Geison, Gerald L. (1995). The Private Science of Louis Pasteur. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03442-7.
- Latour, Bruno (1988). The Pasteurization of France. Boston: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-65761-6.
- Reynolds, Moira Davison. How Pasteur Changed History: The Story of Louis Pasteur and the Pasteur Institute (1994)
- Williams, Roger L. (1957). Gaslight and Shadow: The World of Napoleon III, 1851-1870. NY: Macmillan Company. ISBN 0-8371-9821-6.
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- The Institut Pasteur – Foundation Dedicated to the prevention and treatment of diseases through biological research, education and public health activities
- The Pasteur Foundation – A US nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the mission of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Full archive of newsletters available online containing examples of US Tributes to Louis Pasteur.
- Pasteur's Papers on the Germ Theory
- The Life and Work of Louis Pasteur, Pasteur Brewing
- The Pasteur Galaxy
- Louis Pasteur featured on the 5 French Franc banknote from 1966.
- Germ Theory and Its Applications to Medicine and Surgery, 1878
- Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) profile, AccessExcellence.org
The complete work of Pasteur, BNF (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
- PDF (French)
- PDF (French)
- Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences Articles published by Pasteur (French)