Louis Pasteur

April 7, 2022

Louis Pasteur was a French scientist who lived in the 19th century. Generally speaking, he is famous for his invention of pasteurization, which means heating either packaged or non-packaged foods for the purpose of extending their shelf life by eliminating pathogens. Something that is still used in the present time. However, Pasteur was involved in a number of other important scientific discoveries as well.

Having said that, it is interesting to note that Pasteur came from unpromising beginnings. He was born to a poor tanner, though he managed to receive an education. However, Pasteur wasn’t a particularly brilliant student, being more interested in fishing as well as sketching. Still, he persevered, with the result that he went on to secure the credentials needed to support an academic career. By 1858, Pasteur had taken control of the prestigious École normale supérieure in Paris, thus enabling him to make a series of reforms. On the one hand, this produced better results for better prestige; on the other hand, he was something of an authoritarian, as shown by the time that he ordered mutton stew to be made every Monday because his students wouldn’t eat it.

Regardless, Pasteur is best remembered for his scientific discoveries. For example, he showed that either killing or otherwise stopping germs could prevent diseases, thus making him one of the people whose work established the germ theory of disease. Similarly, he showed both that nothing grew in sterilized, sealed flasks and that microorganisms could grow in sterilized, open flasks, meaning that he was the one who disproved the idea of spontaneous generation that had been quite popular before him. On top of this, Pasteur developed vaccines for rabies, cholera, and anthrax, which have saved numerous lives in his life as well as thereafter.

All of these successes enabled Pasteur to found the Pasteur Institute in 1887, which he continued to run until his death in 1895. Unfortunately, an examination of his laboratory notebooks conducted in recent decades has revealed that he was very far from being flawless. To name one example, Pasteur wasn’t the first person to develop an anthrax vaccine. Instead, that was Henry Toussaint. However, Pasteur was the one who walked away with the glory as well as the wealth by publicly demonstrating a vaccination using “live vaccine” afterward, which had actually been killed using potassium dichromate in much the same manner as Toussaint’s. As such, some of Pasteur’s shine has come off, though his achievements still stand.

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