Today in History: The Birthday of a Remarkable Scientist

Today in History: The Birthday of a Remarkable Scientist

M.C. Millman

On December 27, 1822, French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, who forever changed science as we know it, was born. 

The Institut Pasteur describes Pasteur as a qualified chemist "behind the most important scientific revolutions of the 19th century in the fields of biology, agriculture, medicine, and hygiene."

The name "Pasteur" may sound familiar because the pasteurization process was discovered and named after Louis Pasteur.

Pasteur greatly impacted food preservation by discovering that unwanted microorganisms were causing wine to spoil. He found that heating the wine to a temperature between 60° and 100°C, now known as pasteurization, destroyed the microorganisms. Later, the process extended to other substances, such as milk, which is widely used today.

That is just one of his lifetime accomplishments. Pasteur also developed the Germ Theory, believing microscopic organisms cause many diseases. This theory was met with skepticism by many scientists of the day who had no real way of proving the concept. 

The brilliant scientist also developed the rabies vaccine, which was remarkable for his time because viruses were invisible due to the poor resolution of microscopes. The virus was only seen almost a century later. 

Back then, being bitten by a rabid animal was near-certain death. When the public heard about Pasteur's successful vaccinations, there were worldwide donations to make the Institut Pasteur, which officially opened in 1888. The Science History Institute labels Institut Pasteur as one of the world's premier biomedical research institutions. 

Pasteur died in 1895 after a series of strokes, but his legacy lives on today. Britannica records over 30 institutes and many hospitals, schools, buildings, and streets bearing his name. 

Britannica described Pasteur and his remarkable achievements, saying, "A simple description of his achievements does not do justice to the intensity and fullness of his life. He never accepted defeat, and he always tried to convince skeptics, though his impatience and intolerance were notorious when he believed that truth was on his side."

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