Who Is The Great Louis Pasteur?
Good Morning Class!
Good Morning Professor Xi!
This morning we will talk about one of the greatest scientists of all time. Now, many microbes have mixed feelings about Louis Pasteur as he was one of the first scientists to demonize our kind, but he also did a lot for placing our world within theirs. He acknowledged our ability as great chemists, professing that it is we who can turn juice into wine and we who have the ability to bring men to their knees. Oh dear, that came out far darker than I intended. Perhaps I’ve been spending too many lunch breaks with Becky.
Now, settle down class, and let’s begin.
Louis Pasteur’s Beginnings
Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822, in France and lived during a very tumultuous time in the world. A time after the Napoleonic Wars during the American Civil War, and right before the world stage was set for World War I.
Louis Pasteur, Charles Darwin, and Robert Koch were all contemporaries of each, with Albert Einstein and Marie Curie being born towards the end of Louis Pasteur's life. Now many of these scientists you may not know because they don’t concern us, but just know that these are some of the greatest minds mankind has ever known. This is a time of great biological insights, and the start of new revolutionary scientific ideas that would forever change the way humanity thinks about life. The theory of evolution, germ theory, radioactivity, and theory of relativity would all be born within 100 years of Louis Pasteur.
For all those human nerds out there like myself, from a pop culture point of view, Louis Pasteur was alive during Queen Victoria’s reign. He would be revolutionizing microbiology at the same time Walt Whitman was writing Leaves of Grass and Mark Twain was writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. During Pasteur's lifetime, Karl Marx would publish his Communist Manifesto and P.T. Barnum would redefine circuses and traveling entertainment. All this was happening throughout Louis Pasteur’s time and yet it would be the Experiments of Louis Pasteur that could overshadow all these great accomplishments. So let’s get into who Louis Pasteur is and what else you should know about him besides Pasteurization.
Growing up, Louis Pasteur had 3 sisters and was the only son of a 3rd generation tanner. He left his home for Paris to get a better education than his small hometown could provide him. Louis Pasteur picked up a part-time teaching job to afford his schooling. Although homesick, Louis Pasteur knew Paris would provide him with opportunities to be among the highly educated, to attend lectures from world leaders in the field of chemistry, like Jean-Baptiste Dumas. It would take some time before Louis Pasteur would realize, he could study all the chemistry he wants but he would never be a match for us microbes.
Who Louis Pasteur Was
Who Louis Pasteur was at this time was someone of great respect, he often received awards, acknowledgments, and distinctions from his institution and beyond. He was known as being quiet, shy, and brilliant, working hard and focused intently on his work.
But Pasteur was also fervently prideful of his home country of France. In 1848, when France went through a revolution, Louis immediately donated all his savings to the Republic and joined the National Guard. However, his passion for science could not be extinguished. That same year he became a professor of physics at Lycee In Dijon and soon after a professor of chemistry at Strasbourg. It was here he met his wife, Marie Laurent, whom he married in 1849.
Another example of Pasteur’s French pride would come later in his life, during the Franco-Prussian war. Before the war, the Germans at the University of Bonn bestowed upon him a medical doctor degree. During the war, he rejected the degree entirely, sending it back to the University with the following message:
“My conscience calls on me to ask you to remove my name from the archives of your faculty and to take back the diploma, as a symbol of the indignation inspired in a French scientist by the barbarity and hypocrisy of the man who persists in the massacre of two great nations in order to satisfy his criminal pride”.
This French pride and disdain towards the Germans would also ignite the fuel between Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch! But more on that rivalry later.
He was a man that went through a great deal of tragedy and because of the important nature of his work was often compelled to work through this tragedy including the untimely death of his two daughters and the death of his father. But Louis would also live through another more personal trauma. On October 19, 1868, Pasteur was feeling unwell, he had a tingly sensation on the left side of his body; it ended up that he was suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage. The whole left side of his body would succumb to paralysis and he was bed-ridden for nearly 3 months and this would affect him for the rest of his life.
The Legacy of Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur is often, and justly so, regarded as one of the greatest scientific minds that ever lived. Perhaps not as well known as Newton or Einstein but he saved far more lives than them both. In honor of Louis Pasteur, The Pasteur Institute was born, being among one of the most famous scientific institutes in the world. This Institute would inspire generations to come including Harold Amos, the first Black American microbiologist in America.
On September 28, 1895, Louis Pasteur died after battling kidney failure for about a year. Louis Pasteur said many wise things in his day, but the one I like the most is this: “A man of science should think of what will be said of him in the following century, not of the insults or compliments of one day”.
For next week’s class, I would like each of you to write a small report and be prepared to present one of Louis Pasteur’s experiments!
The majority of this blog was created due to the excellent book by Harvey Warren on Louis Pasteur.