Louis Pasteur: Life and Legacy

Louis Pasteur was a pioneer in science, although in his early years he was more inclined towards the arts. He is a scientist who revolutionized the theories of the time and contributed diverse knowledge that was applied in different areas, for example in medicine.

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There are people who, thanks to their ingenuity, manage to surprise humanity. Regardless of the field, throughout history, we are faced with several people who, for various reasons, dared to innovate by changing our conception of the world. One of these geniuses was Louis Pasteur who, thanks to his contributions and innovations, managed to consecrate himself as a pioneer of the sciences.

It is incredible to think that we have counted on people like him. People to whom we owe countless advances that, even today, continue to promote our progress. However, his work, like that of many other geniuses, was quite controversial at the beginning. The novelty and change scare, seems to generate some rejection and, over time, revalue. Today, nobody questions the contributions of Pasteur.

In this article, we will talk about Louis Pasteur, his life and his contributions to the scientific world. Join us in this adventure in which you will find the most relevant contributions of the man who has been considered a pioneer of medicine and modern microbiology.

“Unfortunate men who have all clear ideas.”

-Louis Pasteur-

Louis Pasteur was a chemist and bacteriologist of French origin. He was born on December 27, 1822 in Dola (Franche-Comté, France). In his childhood, he seemed to show a greater interest in art than in books and sciences; leaning, mainly, by painting.

At school, Pasteur did not show great aptitudes in the scientific field and he did not have a great interest in studies either; It was his father who forced him to continue high school. Pasteur obtained the title of bachelor in letters in 1840 and, later, obtained the scientist in 1842. That same year, he entered the Normal Superior School of Paris.

Years later, in the same school, he was a professor of physics, although he would show a deep interest in chemistry. He worked as a chemistry teacher in Dijôn and in Strasbourg. In this last city, he met Marie Laurent, who would become his wife in 1949. As a result of that marriage, five children were born, of whom only two survived; typhus, unfortunately, ended the lives of the other three. The children who survived were: Jean-Baptiste and Marie Luise.

As we see, sometimes the geniuses may not finish fitting into the educational system and it is not even easy to choose the best option. In the case of Pasteur, nothing in his childhood seemed to indicate that he was going to opt for chemistry and, nevertheless, currently, his figure is deeply linked to this field.

What were the scientific contributions of Louis Pasteur?

Louis Pasteur left us a great legacy thanks to the scientific discoveries he made and his performance in education. Below, we detail some of his main discoveries, contributions and acknowledgments:

  • Dean of the faculty of sciences: he was appointed dean of the University of Lille in 1854.
  • Pasteur Institute: founded the Institute in 1887 and directed it until his death. The Institute is one of the pioneers in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and, of its multiple researchers, eight have received the Nobel Prize. Among his contributions, the fact of being the first laboratory to isolate HIV stands out.
  • Laboratory: directed the laboratory of the Normal School of Paris since 1867.
  • Optical isomerism: in the Pasteur Institute, he discovered that, just as our hands are not equal, but are symmetrical, there were almost identical crystals, but with mirror symmetry. Solved the mystery of tartaric acid that existed in two forms with identical chemical composition, but with different properties.
  • Pasteurization: Louis Pasteur discovered that, in the fermentation, two microorganisms intervened. It was two yeasts: one produced alcohol, and the other, lactic acid. Subsequently, he innovated with a method to eliminate these microorganisms. At first, the industry rejected their ideas, but managed to demonstrate them and they were accepted.
  • Microbial theory: Pasteur discovered that there was an analogy between disease and fermentation. Achieving establish that, as microorganisms caused the decomposition of some products, there could be some that invade a healthy body causing conditions. These theories led him to investigate contagious diseases.
  • Spontaneous generation: refuted the theory of spontaneous generation, showing that the processes of organic decomposition and fermentation are the result of the action of living organisms. In addition, he showed that the microorganisms that appeared came from outside. A discovery that was achieved through the observation of flasks containing filters that avoided contact with the outside.

Thanks to his discoveries through the microbial theory, he managed to advance in the development of vaccines, something that, in our days, continues to be very useful. Pasteurization, on the other hand, is a wonderful process that guarantees the safety of various food products. Pasteur also left us with various antiseptics that have taken a radical turn in medical care. Pasteur’s research has contributed to the improvement of the world as we know it today and probably will continue to do so in the future.

Luis Pasteur, his legacy

Pasteur devoted a large part of his life to research. Investigations and discoveries that are reflected in his writings and those of authors after him, who wrote about his legacy and complemented his work. Even today, he continues to allude to Pasteur as one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century. We highlight the following texts:

  • Studies on wine, its diseases, causes that cause them. New procedures for the preservation of aging (1866): This is a work by Pasteur in which he talks about the methods he discovered to eliminate microorganisms that can degrade wine.
  • Molecular Dysmetry: In this text, Pasteur leaves us the legacy about the dimorphism of tartaric acid. And the opposing action of each of the crystalline forms that it possesses.
  • Studies in fermentation (1879/2005): In tribute to the contributions of Pasteur, the site reprinted the studies on fermentation. And he did it as he appeared in his first English version Studies on Fermentation in (1879) and including the illustrations of the scientist.
  • Contagious diseases: In several of his laboratory notes, he showed his studies on contagious diseases. Then, he studied the problem of the silkworm, the cholera of the hens and the contagious bovine plerineumonia, among others.

Some current texts continue to quote Pasteur, let’s see two very recent ones:

  • “Reconciling Pasteur and Darwin to control infectious diseases”: This is a scientific article by Alizon and Méthot (2018), in which they suggest that following the historical thread of Pasteur and Darwin would help to reconcile clinical microbiology, ecology and the evolution. In this way, the pathology could be understood in an interdisciplinary way and new therapies could be established. In addition to expanding the efficiency of existing procedures.
  • “Thanks Edward. Merci Louis”: consists of a 2016 article by Daniel Dimaio for the scientific journal Plos One. In it, among other things, highlights the achievements of Pasteur, especially in relation to vaccines.

Louis Pasteur was definitely a pioneer in his time, considered the founder of microbiology. He is a multifaceted author, which led to important advances in the scientific and medical field and which bequeathed us one of the most prestigious research centers at an international level.

A life dedicated to education, research and, ultimately, to science. A scientist to whom we owe an incredible improvement in our quality of life, methods that help fight diseases and preserve various foods. For these reasons, we can affirm that Louis Pasteur was an incomparable scientist.

“I am absolutely convinced that science and peace triumph over ignorance and war, that nations will unite in the long run not to destroy, but to edify; and that the future belongs to those who have done much for the good of humanity.”

-Louis Pasteur-