Pasteur, Louis

Pasteur, Louis
b. 27 December 1822 Dole, France
d. 28 September 1895 Paris, France
French chemist, founder of stereochemistry, developer of microbiology and immunology, and exponent of the germ theory of disease.
Sustained by the family tanning business in Dole, near the Swiss border, Pasteur's school career was undistinguished, sufficing to gain him entry into the teacher-training college in Paris, the Ecole Normale, There the chemical lectures by the great organic chemist J.B.A.Dumas (1800–84) fired Pasteur's enthusiasm for chemistry which never left him. Pasteur's first research, carried out at the Ecole, was into tartaric acid and resulted in the discovery of its two optically active forms resulting from dissymmetrical forms of their molecules. This led to the development of stereochemistry. Next, an interest in alcoholic fermentation, first as Professor of Chemistry at Lille University in 1854 and then back at the Ecole from 1857, led him to deny the possibility of spontaneous generation of animal life. Doubt had previously been cast on this, but it was Pasteur's classic research that finally established that the putrefaction of broth or the fermentation of sugar could not occur spontaneously in sterile conditions, and could only be caused by airborne micro-organisms. As a result, he introduced pasteurization or brief, moderate heating to kill pathogens in milk, wine and other foods. The suppuration of wounds was regarded as a similar process, leading Lister to apply Pasteur's principles to revolutionize surgery. In 1860, Pasteur himself decided to turn to medical research. His first study again had important industrial implications, for the silk industry was badly affected by diseases of the silkworm. After prolonged and careful investigation, Pasteur found ways of dealing with the two main infections. In 1868, however, he had a stroke, which prevented him from active carrying out experimentation and restricted him to directing research, which actually was more congenial to him. Success with disease in larger animals came slowly. In 1879 he observed that a chicken treated with a weakened culture of chicken-cholera bacillus would not develop symptoms of the disease when treated with an active culture. He compared this result with Jenner's vaccination against smallpox and decided to search for a vaccine against the cattle disease anthrax. In May 1881 he staged a demonstration which clearly showed the success of his new vaccine. Pasteur's next success, finding a vaccine which could protect against and treat rabies, made him world famous, especially after a person was cured in 1885. In recognition of his work, the Pasteur Institute was set up in Paris by public subscription and opened in 1888. Pasteur's genius transcended the boundaries between science, medicine and technology, and his achievements have had significant consequences for all three fields.
Pasteur published over 500 books, monographs and scientific papers, reproduced in the magnificent Oeuvres de Pasteur, 1922–39, ed. Pasteur Vallery-Radot, 7 vols, Paris.
Further Reading
P.Vallery-Radot, 1900, La vie de Louis Pasteur, Paris: Hachette; 1958, Louis Pasteur. A Great Life in Brief, English trans., New York (the standard biography).
E.Duclaux, 1896, Pasteur: Histoire d ' un esprit, Paris; 1920, English trans., Philadelphia (perceptive on the development of Pasteur's thought in relation to contemporary science).
R.Dobos, 1950, Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science, Boston, Mass.; 1955, French trans.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Pasteur,Louis — Pas·teur (păs tûrʹ, pä stœrʹ), Louis. 1822 1895. French chemist who founded modern microbiology, invented the process of pasteurization, and developed vaccines for anthrax, rabies, and chicken cholera.   Pas·teurʹi·an adj. * * * …   Universalium

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