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Louis Pasteur-His Life and Discoveries

Updated on February 14, 2016
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur working in his laboratory
Louis Pasteur working in his laboratory
Pasteurization Factory
Pasteurization Factory
Pasteur Institute
Pasteur Institute
Molecular Asymmetry
Molecular Asymmetry
Fermentation process
Fermentation process | Source
Germ Theory
Germ Theory | Source
Spontaneous Generation Theory
Spontaneous Generation Theory | Source

Louis Pasteur

"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity." This explains the guiding force behind Louis Pasteur's eventful life. Louis Pasteur was an eminent French Chemist and Microbiologist famous for his discoveries of anthrax vaccine, microbial fermentation, spontaneous generation experiment and pasteurization. He also made significant contributions in the field of chemistry.

Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822 at Dole, France to a poor catholic family. His father Jean-Joseph Pasteur was a tanner. His primary education was in Arbois in1831 and secondary school in Besancon. He was an average student and not studious in particular. His main passion was fishing and sketching. His famous paintings and pastels are now displayed in a museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He attained bachelor of arts degree and bachelor of science degree in 1840 and 1842 respectively at the Royal College of Besancon.

Career :

Louis Pasteur was delegated to the Chair of Ministry in the faculty of sciences department at the University of Strasbourg in 1848. Later in 1854, he was made the dean of the new faculty of sciences at the Lille University where he commenced his studies on Fermentation.

He became the director of scientific studies at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris on1857 and popularized the standards of scientific work.

In 1862, he was chosen as the professor of geology, physics, and chemistry at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts followed by his resignation in 1867. In 1887, he set up the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Molecular Asymmetry:

Working as a chemist, he began to research on chemical, optical and crystallographic properties of a group of compounds known as tartrates. He solved the problem regarding the nature of tartaric acid. A solution of this compound borrowed from living things appeared to move around the plane of polarization of light passing through it. The enigma was that tartaric acid derived from chemical synthesis had no such reaction although its chemical reactions was exact and its elemental composition was very similar.


Pasteur established the fact that fermentation is generated by the growth of micro-organisms. While he was working at Lille University in 1856, M. Bigot a local wine manufacturer approached him seeking his advice to solve the problem of producing a beetroot alcohol. In 1857, he established the fact that an alcoholic ferment, the yeast of beer which is present everywhere where sugar is decayed into alcohol and carbonic acid. A ferment called lactic yeast which is also prevalent where sugar becomes lactic acid. He established that yeast is the main factor for fermentation to produce alcohol from sugar, and that air (oxygen) was not essential. He also proved that fermentation could produce lactic acid which in turn makes the wines sour.

Germ theory of Disease:

Pasteur discovered the fact that activity of micro-organisms on sugar is the root cause for Fermentation. In 1846, a strange disease afflicted silkworms around the globe. He revealed the fact that disease was caused by micro-organisms which is in present in the tissues of diseased silkworms, moths and eggs. He designed a way to ward off this disease by diagnosing the infected eggs. This was the first confirmation of micro-organisms causing disease.. Germ Theory of Disease revealed that some diseases are caused mainly due to micro-organisms. Micro-organisms that causes disease are known as Pathogens and these diseases are known as infectious diseases. Contagious diseases like Flu, Chicken-pox , pneumonia are caused by Microscopic organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

Pasteurization :

In 1864, Pasteur invented Pasteurization which exterminates harmful bacteria that multiply in dairy foods when it is not refrigerated. It is a process by which harmful bacteria which are solely responsible for spoiling beverages such as beer and wine and deadly diseases such as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis are killed by heating milk up to a specific temperature say between 60 to 100 degree Celsius. Nowadays pasteurization is extensively used in dairy and food industries to control the growth of micro-organisms and food preservation.


In 1881, Pasteur implemented a remarkable public experiment by injecting one group of animals with an anthrax vaccine he developed, but second control group was not vaccinated. Few weeks later, he injected the live anthrax bacteria to both the groups, as a result, those vaccinated animals survived. Pasteur's efforts in the development of rabies and anthrax vaccine became notable among the public. Despite the fact that Pasteur was responsible for the development of anthrax vaccine, there are rumors that Jean Joseph Henri Toussaint a French veterinarian was the first person who had actually discovered this vaccine.

After his achievements in public experiments. His next focus was to wipe out a deadly disease known as 'Rabies' which created panic among the public. This disease was a serious threat to both the humans as well as animals at the time. He came up with a plan by using dried nervous tissue of animals that had died from 'Rabies'. The living animals were vaccinated against rabies. He used the vaccine when a young child was bitten by a rabid dog. He feared that the boy may die, but he survived, thereby the experiment proved a success. This sky-rocketed his fame and stature.

Spontaneous Generation theory:

It is a process by which living organisms evolve from the non-living matter. According to ancient theory, pieces of cheese and bread were encased in rags and kept in a dark corner, assuming that would produce mice, because several weeks later there were mice in the rags. Many people were fully convinced of this theory because it elucidated occurrences as the appearance of maggots on a spoiled meat. In the 18th century, it became evident that higher organisms was not originated from non-living matter. But later in the 19th century, Pasteur proved that micro-organisms could reproduce.

Awards and Accolades:

In 1853, the Pharmaceutical Society awarded Pasteur for the integration of racemic acid.

In 1856, the Royal Society of London granted him the Rumford Medal for unearthing the nature of racemic acid and its correlation to polarized light.

In 1859, he was awarded Montyon Prize for his observations on Physiology and the Jecker Prize in 1861.

In 1862, he was awarded Alhumbert Prize for his trial and error practical refutation on Spontaneous Generation.

Louis Pasteur was named as the Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1869.

In 1873, he became the Commander in the Brazilian Order of The Rose.

In 1874, he was awarded the Copley Medal for his efforts on Fermentation.

In 1883, he was affiliated to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences as the Foreign Member.

In 1887, he was delegated to the permanent secretary of the physical science section of the academy.

Pasteur established the Pasteur Institute in 1887 at Paris, France. It is a non-profit private foundation committed to the study of biology, micro-organisms and vaccines. Institut Pasteur has currently the leading edge in the battle against infectious disease. This extensive bio-medical research organization stationed at Paris was the first to alienate HIV, a virus that caused AIDS in 1983. Institut Pasteur has over the years made remarkable discoveries to restrict deadly diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, influenza, yellow fever, and plague.

Pasteur died at the age of 72 following multiple strokes in 1895 at Paris. He was buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.


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