Louis Pasteur, (1822-1895) micro-biologist, chemist,
Son of a tanner his foray into science set him apart from great many who made discoveries in the world of science, practical application of which made modern science as we know today. His contribution to the wellbeing of humanity would place him far above statesmen, rulers, thinkers and military geniuses the world has ever known.
In the earliest times surgery was done by glorified barbers and they were addressed ‘mister’ than with due consideration to art ( as in the case of physicians) it was often possible that the operations often resulted in medical complications and death though operation was not performed over vital organs of the body. Pasteurs study into germs made him apply a new rule for doctors to sanitize their hands before they performed surgery. Now it may sound very commonplace but it was a daring innovation for which Louis Pasteur’s work had prepared him most admirably.
Pasteur founded the science of microbiology and proved that most infectious diseases are caused by micro-organisms. This became known as the “germ theory” of disease. The germ theory was the foundation of numerous applications, such as the large scale brewing of beer, wine-making and other antiseptic operations. Another significant discovery facilitated by the germ theory was the nature of contagious diseases. Pasteur’s intuited that if germs were the cause of fermentation, they could just as well be the cause of contagious diseases. This proved to be true for many diseases such as potato blight, silkworm diseases, and anthrax.
After studying the characteristics of germs and viruses that caused diseases, he and others found that laboratory manipulations of the infectious agents can be used to immunize people and animals. This treatment proved to work and saved countless lives and naturally it led the innovation I mentioned in the beginning.
One characteristic that marked Pasteur above great many brilliant chemists was his ability to apply the principles drawn from research into practical applications. For instance his contribution to prevent wine from spoiling helped French wine industry. The French economy was heavily dependent on wine exports and he suggested a simple procedure to help it. Boiling the wine would have altered its flavor. Therefore, Pasteur heated the wine enough to kill most of the microbes present without changing the flavor. Chilling prevented any microbes left from multiplying.
To his great delight, Pasteur found that this process could also prevent milks from turning sour and preserve many other foodstuffs as well. Thus he became the inventor of a new process known as pasteurization which brought him more fame and recognition. Besides this Pasteur also developed vaccines for several diseases including rabies. The discovery of the vaccine for rabies led to the founding of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1888.
On the discipline of rigid and strict experimental tests he commented, “Imagination should give wings to our thoughts but we always need important experimental proof, and when the moment comes to draw conclusions and to understand the gathered observations, imagination must be checked and documented by the factual results of the experiment. Francis Bacon said this earlier but Pasteur said it more eloquently since he took away the fear of death from everyday life. All of these achievements point to singular brilliance and perseverance in Pasteur’s nature. Pasteur’s name lives on in the microbiological research institute in Paris that bears his name, the Institute Pasteur and continues to be today as a center of microbiology and immunology.(www.famousscientists.org/louis-pasteur)