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Louis Pasteur was a French scientist whose work on microbes has saved the lives of millions all around the world. He developed a method of reducing the effects of bacteria on food and drink by heating then cooling the substance, now known as pasteurization. He developed vaccinations to diseases such as anthrax, cholera, TB and smallpox.

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France on December 27, 1822. He wasn’t a particularly bright student through school, enjoying his time painting and fishing. While his teachers were encouraging him to follow his artistic side, his father wanted him to concentrate on his academic studies. He was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg in 1852.

Pasteur’s first discovery was that molecules of the chemical tartaric could have the same composition, but different organization. Molecules could appear as mirror images of each other (left and right handed types).

His most famous work was the continuation of germ theory. For many years, people thought that life and living things came out of nowhere. Using a swan necked flask he showed that the microbes came from the air. This work wasn’t well accepted early on as Pasteur was not a doctor. This led to him inventing a method of preserving wine by heating and cooling. This method saved the wine industry a fortune: wine shipments no longer spoiled as easily. This method known as pasteurization is still used today to stop us getting sick from microbes on food.

His work that has undoubtedly saved the most lives was his work on vaccinations. A hundred years before Edward Jenner had created the first vaccine for smallpox, Pasteur injected his chickens with an old culture of chicken cholera bacteria. This culture was spoiled and his chickens did not fall ill. When Pasteur injected them with fresh cultures of the disease the chickens were immune. This was the first lab-created vaccine. He then set about to create a vaccine for anthrax in 1881. In 1885, he injected a boy who had been bitten by a rabid animal. The boy survived and this marked the first man-made vaccine given to a human being.

In 1868 he suffered a stroke which paralyzed one side of his body. Although he survived, he was left handicapped. Pasteur died at age 72 in Paris after he suffered another stroke. The Pasteur Institute still exists today working hard to study micro-organisms, diseases, and vaccines.

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Pasteur’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Pasteurization
  • First man-made vaccine
  • Lab-created vaccine to successfully treat a human for rabies

Louis Pasteur Quotes

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

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

“In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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