"Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the
prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur
Chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was born in France.
Three of his five children died of typhoid fever, which likely contributed to
his driving desire to save people from disease. He graduated in 1842 from
Besancon College Royal de la Franche with honors in physics, mathematics, Latin,
and drawing. Later, he attended Ecole Normale in Paris to study physics and
chemistry. After which he held academic posts at Strasbourg, Lille and Paris,
becoming professor of chemistry at the Sorbonne in 1867.
In his early research he worked with French wine growers to develop a way to
kill harmful organisms that adversely effected the fermentation process. The
first pasteurization test was completed in 1862 and proved a successful
technique for extending the life of both wine and milk.
In a famous experiment in 1881 Pasteur showed that sheep and cows vaccinated*
with the attenuated bacilli of anthrax received protection against the disease;
and in 1885 he saved the life of a nine-year-old boy who had been attacked by a
rabid dog using a series of experimental rabies vaccinations.
During his lifetime Pasteur fought to convince surgeons that germs existed
and carried diseases but it was not always easy to convince others of his
controversial claim. The Pasteur Institute was opened in 1888, where he worked
until his death in 1895.
Other quotes from Pasteur:
"Any new system is worth trying when your luck is bad."
"Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius."
"When you work seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, you get lucky."
*Most of us know the story of how English country doctor, Edward
Jenner, discovered that cowpox gave immunity to smallpox in the mid-18th century. However, apparently
the history of vaccination goes back much further in time. The ancient Chinese
developed a snuff made of powdered smallpox scabs which usually brought on a mild
infection, protecting the individual from a more serious case later. In the
1600s European peasants immunized themselves via an injection under the skin, and in the early 18th century King George I allowed
vaccination trials on the inmates of Newgate Prison. Some died, but enough lived
and gained immunity for variolation to become accepted medical practice.