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 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
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