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Alexander Graham Bell
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Louis Pasteur

 
 

Let us pay homage to Louis Pasteur, the scientific genius who informed the world about the intricate relationship between health and diseases. Certainly the importance of Pasteur's research can be etched on the annals of medical development, particularly the first vaccines devised for humans. He also challenged the myth on spontaneous generation, thereby setting the stage for modern biology and biochemistry.

Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur
 

Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France but grew up in Arbois, an only son of a poorly educated tanner. In his early years his interests were bound with fishing and portrait painting. In fact, many contemporaries can attest to this home grown talent. All this however changed during his studies at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. It was at this school that Pasteur was molded on the profession that he was destined to be in; thus started the long and arduous journey of scientific discovery.

Not known to many, Louis Pasteur the father of microbiology and immunology, was a chemist and while working for his doctorate degree in chemistry he was assigned to crystallize tartaric acid. His research on the molecular structures of this compound led to the launching of a new science called stereochemistry. This discovery held deeper meaning for Pasteur, since the asymmetrical organic molecules were found indicative of living processes. It was this particular discovery that honed Pasteur with the "inescapable forward moving logic" in his study of alcohol fermentation.

After his marriage to the Marie Laurent, daughter of the Strasbourg University Rector, Louis Pasteur moved to Lille, France, an industrial town with distilleries and factories. It was here that his theory about fermentation was put to good use. In the summer of 1856, he was confronted with a problem on improper fermentation. Instead of the by-product alcohol, lactic acid was produced. In the course of his research Louis Pasteur subjected the mixture to high temperature; killing in effect the microorganism, thereby sterilizing (pasteurizing) it before introducing pure cultures of microbes and yeast from where a predictable fermentation was achieved.

Amidst the jubilation on the help extended by Louis Pasteur with distillers on the fermentation process, a debate was ongoing in the scientific world on the theory of "spontaneous generation". Pasteur joined the fray and debunked the theory that beetles, maggots, eels and microbes could arise simultaneously from decaying matter. By a simple experiment he was able to prove that under no circumstance can microscopic beings be born into the world without germs, without parents similar to themselves. Thus he single handedly extinguished the fire on "spontaneous generation".

Louis Pasteur, through his research, was able to provide relief to the French silk industry by giving the silkworm growers the ability to select which type is applicable to their requirements. But the crowning achievement of his career was his "germ theory of disease". It brought to the open how specific microorganisms can bring about important diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, childbirth fever, syphilis and smallpox. Though the medical community was late to admit, in the end they did follow Pasteur's lead.

In the course of his lifetime Louis Pasteur was able to develop vaccines for anthrax and chicken cholera, helping the dairy and poultry industry rise on its feet. The last research that Louis Pasteur did for humanity involved the development of the anti-rabies vaccine which proved to be very successful.

Rumor Has It

Louis Pasteur once tickled pygmies in African while on a goodwill mission. According the legend Louis Pasteur was lost in the Jungles of the Congo, captured by pygmies and was about to be eaten in a ceremony of cannibals. The quick-witted Louis Pasteur told the chief a knock-knock joke, followed by a knock on the head and escaped a boiling pot and into the jungle. What was this knock-knock joke? Something to do with an orange and a banana.

Written by Kevin Lepton

 

 
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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