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Chapter in a Nutshell
This chapter talks about the life and contribution of the French chemist, Louis Pasteur, who made great progress in the field of the study of bacteria and helped create and advance many practices of vaccination.
Louis Pasteur was the son of a brave tanner who had been honoured by Napoleon. Unlike his father, he was not a soldier, but he was still a fighter. He fought disease and dedicated his life to the study of germs or bacteria. He also used his research to help all kinds of people in important industries in France, from brewers and silk worm breeders to cow keepers.
Louis Pasteur was born in a little French country town. He was interested in chemistry from his childhood. After studying hard and showing great promise at Paris, he became a Professor at Strasburg in Alsace, and married his wife who became his closest friend and assistant.
Pasteur wanted to solve the difficult problems worrying scientists. He would sit silent and motionless for hours to find their solution. When he found those solutions, a happy look would come over his face and he would rush to his wife and others to tell them about the discovery.
Studies about Fermentation and the Purity of Air
In 1854, Pasteur was made the head of a science college at Lille, a busy manufacturing town in north-east France. He was very pleased since he had always wanted to help trade and industries through science. Because alcohol was one of Lille’s chief industries, he was able to perform experiments in some breweries when he was lecturing on fermentation. He discovered a lot about yeast from this, and became certain it was made of living cells.
Some years later, he became Director of Scientific Studies at a famous college in Paris. He tried to find out whether germs form from other germs or just come of themselves. He believed that germs were carried in the air and infected things they came in contact with. Pasteur proved his theory right by performing some experiments with soup and air. He was also successful in establishing the difference between pure and stale air.
Another useful discovery he made was the process of boiling milk or wine to a certain temperature to turn the germs in them harmless. This process is named “pasteurization” after him.
Studies about Vaccination
Pasteur founded the branch of science called “bacteriology.” He tracked down the source of the disease that ruined the silkworm industry, and also realized that all infectious diseases were caused by bacteria which multiplied when they got into blood.
Dr. Jenner in England had already found a vaccine for smallpox, but vaccination against other diseases had not started yet. Pasteur was a pioneer in this field. While trying to find a cure to anthrax, Pasteur realized that by injecting animals and people with weak old germs, they could be made immune to the diseases that they caused. He proved himself right through an experiment on cows who were affected a lot by anthrax.
One of his last experiments was to find a cure for rabies, the disease caused when bitten by a mad dog. He made his first experiment in 1885 on a young boy whose mother pleaded Pasteur to save him. He succeeded in curing the boy.
Tributes and Honours
Pasteur received many honours from the French Government, and came to a big medical Congress in London in 1881 where he was met with loud applause.
During World War I, France’s troops were immune to many diseases because of proper inoculation, and this was a great tribute to Pasteur’s work. His memory is still honoured in the Institute Pasteur at Paris. At the opening of the Institute in 1881, Pasteur said that the true aim of science was to improve life.
His 70th birthday was celebrated like a national festival. He was honoured by men of all nations, and being too overwhelmed to speak, let his son read out his speech. He said that the future would belong to those who worked for suffering humanity, and told young students to remember to value their education and to serve their country well for the progress and welfare of humanity.
He died aged 75 in 1895, and no name in science is more honoured or widely remembered than his.
Louis Pasteur was a great man who worked for the progress of humanity, and made invaluable contributions in the field of science, especially bacteriology, through his research. He will forever be remembered for his work on bacteria and vaccines that was a blessing to humankind.