Louis Pasteur

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Scientific Biographies

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Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur was an average student in his early years, but he was gifted in drawing and painting. His pastels and portraits of his parents and friends, made when he was 15, were later kept in the museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. After attending primary school in Arbois, where his family had moved, and secondary school in nearby Besançon, he earned his bachelor of arts degree (1840) and bachelor of science degree (1842) at the Royal College of Besançon.In 1843, Pasteur was admitted to the École Normale Supérieure (a teachers’ college in Paris), where he attended lectures by French chemist Jean-Baptiste-André Dumas and became Dumas’s teaching assistant. Pasteur obtained his master of science degree in 1845 and then acquired an advanced degree in physical sciences. He later earned his doctorate in sciences in 1847. Pasteur was appointed professor of physics at the Dijon Lycée (secondary school) in 1848 ,but shortly thereafter accepted a position as professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg.

Pasteur's impact on scienceBy properly sterilizing areas of infection, Pasteur showed how diseases could be stopped. Other researchers, such as the surgeon Joseph Lister, applied Pasteur's antiseptic techniques to operating room patients and greatly increased their survival rates. The science of immunization also originated with Pasteur. He noticed that chickens that had been infected with an old, weakened versions of chicken cholera were immune to fresh cultures of the germs. Pasteur tried vaccinating cows with a weakened form of the anthrax bacterium, and found that they became immune to the disease. Another scientist named Edward Jenner (1749-1823) had experimented with injecting humans with the cowpox germ in order to make them immune to smallpox, a serious disfiguring disease. In honor of Jenner's achievement, Pasteur proposed that the weakened cultures used for immunizing be called "vaccines," from the Latin word "vacca," meaning " 'cow." Having worked on bacterial diseases, Pasteur then attacked the problem of rabies, a fatal disease often passed to humans by infected dogs (as well as other animals). In 1882, he discovered that rabies was caused by a very small germ, smaller than bacteria. Pasteur then developed a vaccine for rabies that worked both for animals and for humans. We now use many processes developed and inspired by Louis Pasteur for our safety today. He founded Pasteur Institute, École centrale de Lille, and the oranization Alliance Française.

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France on December 27, 1822. His parents were Jean Joseph Pasteur and Jeanne Etiennette Roqui. He married Marie Pasteur in Stasbourg on May 29, 1849. His children were Jean Baptiste Pasteur, Camile Pasteur, Marie Louise Pasteur, and Jean Pasteur. Louis Pasteur died on Sep 28, 1895 in Marnes-la-Coquette, France.

Louis Pasteur's home life

Pasteur's education


1856 - Rumford Medal1859 - Montyon Prizes1874 - Copley Medal1892 - Rumford Medal1895 - Leeuwenhoek Medal


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Research and Discovery

The main focus of Pasteur's research was in organic (living) molecular structure and behavior. He was especially interested in fermentation, the process by which yeast transforms sugar into alcohol, as in the making of wine and beer, or the souring of milk and other perishable products. In the early nineteenth century there was no refrigeration to preserve delicate foods like milk and meat, so they spoiled quickly. No one really understood how and why. In the course of his investigations into the function of yeast, Pasteur decided that some out-side substances were taking over the natural fermentation process and ruining the product. He called these substances germs, and concluded that they were also involved in causing diseases by interfering with the body's biological processes in the same way as they interfered with yeast's biological activities. These germ microorganisms were originally thought to appear out of nothing when milk or meat spoiled, so there seemed no way to get rid of them. Pasteur proved through many experiments that germs always came from other germs. If all the germs in a given product could be killed, and the product protected from future invasion, it would not spoil. Pasteur used heat to kill the germ microbes. The process he used, called "pasteurization," was named for him. It is still used to purify and protect perishable products such as milk.

"In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind."

"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity."

"There are no such things as applied sciences, only applications of science."

"Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism."

"When I approach a child, he inspires me in two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."

"Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world."


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