Louis Pasteur


Louis Pasteur was a world renowned French chemist and biologist. He was born on December 27 1822 in the town of Dole in Eastern France. Pasteur's parents were peasants, his father was a tanner by trade. He spent the early days of his life in the small town of Arbois where he attended school and where it seems that Pasteur did not do very well, preferring instead to go fishing. His headmaster, however, spotted potential in Pasteur and encouraged him to go to Paris to study. So, aged fifteen Pasteur set off for Paris hoping to study for his entrance exams. Unfortunately, the young Pasteur was so homesick that his father had to travel to Paris to bring him home. He then continued to study locally at Besancon, until he decided to try again in Paris. This time he succeeded and went on to study at the Ecole Normale Superieure. Curiously, although the young Pasteur worked hard during his student days he was not considered to be exceptional in any way at chemistry.

In 1847 Pasteur was awarded his doctorate and then took up a post as assistant to one of his teachers. He spent several years teaching and carrying out research at Dijon and Strasbourg and in 1854 moved to the University of Lille where he became professor of chemistry. Here he continued the work on fermentation he had already started at Strasbourg. By 1857 Pasteur had become world famous and took up a post at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. In 1863 he became dean of the new science faculty at Lille University. While there, he started evening classes for workers. In 1867 a laboratory was established for his discovery of the rabies vaccine, using public funds. It became known as the Pasteur Institute and was headed by Pasteur until his death in 1895.


Pasteur founded the science of microbiology and proved that most infectious diseases are caused by micro-organisms. This became known as the "germ theory" of disease. He was the inventor of the process of pasteurisation and also developed vaccines for several diseases including rabies. The discovery of the vaccine for rabies led to the founding of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1888.


When he was only twenty-six years old Pasteur solved a problem that had been puzzling the great chemists of the day. He found that when light was passed through tartaric acid - this was found in wine dregs, it produced a strange effect. Pasteur proved that this was because the acid is actually not one acid but a mixture of different acids. This find impressed the scientists of influence and established Pasteur's reputation.

While at the University of Strasbourg he became interested in fermentation and this interest continued when he moved to the University of Lille. The faculty had been established partly to serve as a means of applying science to the problems of the industries of the region, especially the production of alcoholic drinks. This work in fermentation enabled Pasteur to identify that the changes brought about when beer or wine ferments, milk turns sour or meat decays, occur when special micro-organisms are present.

As a result of these findings Pasteur was asked to help the local breweries where the beer had turned bad. The souring of wine and beer was a major economic problem in France. Pasteur looked at some droplets of bad beer through a microscope and observed that the beer contained small rod shaped bacteria, instead of round yeast cells. Although micro-organisms are essential in fermentation they must be the right ones. This was a major discovery. Pasteur made brewing a more scientific procedure and showed brewers how to culture the right organisms for good beer. He also demonstrated to the wine industry that if wine is gently heated to sixty degrees celsius for a short time, the growth of harmful bacteria is prevented and the wine does not go sour in bottles or barrels.

Pasteur then extended this to other problems such as the souring of milk. He proposed heating the milk to a high temperature and pressure before bottling. The process is now in widespread use and is called pasteurisation.


Germ theroy of disease

Thegerm theory of disease is a theory that identifies microorganisms as one of the main causes of disease. Whenproposed byLouis Pasteur this idea was highly controversial. Now however, it is considered the cornerstoneof modern medicine. This idea and subsequent identification of microorganismshas allowed for innovationssuch as antibiotics, hygenic practices and sterilization. These things in combination have increased the life expectancy forthe general public and reformed healthcare.

This diagram is a basic flow for how an infection due to microorganisms will progress. Until the advent of the germ theory of disease, things like vaccinations would not be possible. The germ theory also allows for hospitals and surgical centers to protect both the employees and patients for harmful contamination due to germs.

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