“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Louis Pasteur was born on this day in Dole, Jura, France in 1822. Today is the 190th anniversary of his birth.
Pasteur was the third child of Jean-Joseph and Jeanne-Etiennette Roqui Pasteur. His family moved to the banks of the Cuisance River in Arbois when he was three. His father was a tanner by trade, but was also a decorated soldier in the Napoleonic War. Pasteur was an average student whose skills leaned more toward drawing and painting than science. As a child Pasteur witnessed “the treatment of several victims of bites by rabid animals;” [Pasteurbrewing.com] the epidemic left sixteen dead “in the region, four of them in the immediate vicinity of Arbois.” [Ibid]
In 1840 he received a bachelor of arts and was “appointed teaching assistant at the Besançon collège.” [Ibid] It was then that he began to study math and science in earnest.
He received a bachelor in science in 1842 then a doctorate in 1847 at the Ecole Normale in Paris.
Pasteur then spent several years researching and teaching at Dijon Lycée. In 1848, he became a professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg, [Biography.com]
While in Strasbourg he met Marie Laurent (they wed in 1849 and had five children together, only two of whom survived to adulthood.)
He worked with tartaric acid, fermentation and germ theory. While on vacation he examined diseased wine and “observed the presence of germs analogous to those found in lactic fermentation.” [Pasteurbrewing.com]
he demonstrated that organisms such as bacteria were responsible for souring wine, beer and even milk. He then invented a process where bacteria could be removed by boiling and then cooling liquid. He completed the first test on April 20, 1862. Today the process is known as pasteurization.[Biography.com]
In 1852 he was appointed the chair of chemistry at Strasbourg University. Two years later he was given the same post at the University of Lille.
When he proved that “microbes were attacking healthy silkworm eggs” [ibid], he saved the silk industry in 1865.
In 1868 he had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, but he continued his work. He revolutionized the treatment of infectious diseases such as anthrax and chicken cholera.
In 1882, the year of his acceptance into the Académie Franaise, he decided to focus his efforts on the problem of rabies. On July 6, 1885, Pasteur vaccinated Joseph Meister, a 9-year-old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog. The success of Pasteur’s vaccine brought him immediate fame. This began an international fundraising campaign to build the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which was inaugurated on November 14, 1888. [Ibid]
Pasteur died in September of 1895. He is considered “the father of germ theory and bacteriology.”