“I am utterly convinced that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War,…” – Louis Pasteur
Scientist Louis Pasteur (1822 to 1895) French Chemist, France’s most reputed scientist, propounded the theory that germs existed and caused infection (disease). ‘Health begins where germs end’.
The English equivalent of “Pasteur” is “Shepherd”; “Louis” was the traditional dynasty-based name of Bourbon Kings of France. He was a peasant from the mountains, and he was a traditional Royal-styled Frenchman, thus justifying his name.
At the age of 15 he developed an inclination to drawing – Keen observation involved in it. He wanted to become a painter.
At the age of 20 he wrote to his sister thus, “These three things — will, work and success divide between themselves all human existence.” It indicates his grit and tenacity.
Scientist Louis Pasteur interest in the study of crystals of tartaric acid was a prologue to his work on microbes. Grape pulp changing into alcohol, wine becoming sour – these problems created stir in the mind of Louis; the former was due to fermentation by yeast, a type of animalcule which was also essential for the conversion of grape juice into wine.
Creation of life
Theories prevailing then :
1. Spontaneous Creation of Life : Church was in favour of this since God created Adam and Eve. Whenever they thought of “Life”, they thought of God. Although young Pasteur was not an atheist, he refuted this idea. Maggots are seen crawling out of putrified matter.
2. Life came only from life : Pasteur had clung to this view. One experiment: He put easily putrescible matter, such as meat, into a closely stoppered glass vessel and heated it to kill any living matter that might have existed. No animalcules were found in this sterilized state. But when dust and air were allowed inside, animalcules began to appear after some time.
In these experiments, deadly accuracy and triumphant clearness could not be questioned. The animalcules came from the air and dust.
Clearly, the atmospheric air contained particles of dust. Might it not contain living cells? These cells, otherwise called “germs of life” are responsible for the animalcules. Thus life emanated from life (living cells).
Howelse could life “generate” inside the closed space of the glass vessel?
Not only that — a step ahead — Pasteur had the courage to announce that putrescence in his experimental glass vessel could be compared to a similar change in the organs of the hospital patient! — see how the research jump was going up step by step.
It is easy for us now to see the microbe in microbiology under the microscope.
But imagine how arduous it was for Louis to establish that view, amidst vehement opposition from his contemporaries. It is a fact now. But it was a challenge then.
Scientist Lord Lister, British surgeon got inspiration from Pasteur’s work and introduced the revolutionary antiseptic system.
When wine was heated, the animalcules died indeed, but the taste of wine turned bitter after cooling.
Suddenly a flash of thought struck his mind to evolve an optimum temperature at which the germs could be killed without affecting the taste; this temperature was 55°C.
The wine industry rejoiced at this discovery. Today, the procedure of pasteurization is adopted for milk to sterilize it of germs without altering its flavour.
Still Scientist Pasteur had to face the cudgel of criticism, and ridicule because he was a chemist, not a biologist to talk about life.
Biologists called him a buffoon. To generalize, such was the fate of every scientist.
Scientist Louis Pasteur discovered an inoculation against a dreaded disease, anthrax. He did work on rabies/hydrophobia, a deadly disease caused by the bite of a rabid dog.
The Scientist Pasteur Institute at Paris built in his honour stands as a fitting monument to this stalwart scientist. Pasteur Institute in Coonoor, India is another feather in his cap.
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