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Historical Display Committee Featured Inventor Louis Pasteur



Unofficial Gazette
09/19/01
-adapted from the National Inventors Hall of Fame biography by Renee Luebke

French Chemist Louis Pasteur was the founder of microbiological sciences and stereochemistry. He is well known for developing the mild heating process that kills microbes just after fermentation has been completed. This process, now known as pasteurization, revolutionized the wine industry. He discovered the cause and vaccine for anthrax and rabies. He taught others about germs and the need for sterilization and sanitary conditions.

Born on December 27, 1822 in Dole, France, Pasteur received his scientific education at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. He originally intended to become a teacher, but in striving to understand science and chemistry well enough to inspire his students, he launched his own career in investigatinggerms and the causes of infectious diseases. He served successively as professor of chemistry in Strasbourg, the Dean of the Lille Faculty of Sciences and professor of chemistry at the Sorbonne.

Pasteurs studies of fermentation began in Lille when he was approached by and alcohol manufacturer, the father of one of his students, who was disturbed because undesirable products often appeared during the fermentation of sugar into alcohol. Pasteur postulated that these products came from microscopic organisms other than yeast and suggested that each particular type of fermentation was the effect of a specific microorganism, called the germ. He proposed that spoilage of perishable products could be prevented by destroying the microbes already present in these products and by protecting the sterilized material against subsequent contamination from airborne organisms. Pasteur applied this theory to the preservation of beverages and foodstuffs, thereby intro ducing pasteurization.

Pasteur became preoccupied with the origin of microorganisms and demonstrated that each microbe is derived from a pre-existing microbe, and that spontaneous generation does not occur. Although he did not discover germs or microbes, he made the leap to realizing that they were the key to understanding disease. He showed the way for doctors to become preventers and curers of disease.

In 1867 Louis Pasteur was awarded the Grand Prix medal at the Exposition Universelle for his work on pasteurization and in 1978 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Nicholas Zane Paradiso on October 7, 2000.

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