GMIH-017 Louis Pasteur

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Have you ever had a milk mustache? Well, those are not the greatest mustaches in history. But, did you know that a scientist with a GREAT mustache found a way to make milk safe to drink? This episode of Great Mustaches in History is about Louis Pasteur.

Early Life

Louis Pasteur was born in Dole, France on December 27, 1822. Louis Pasteur loved to sing and enjoyed art but he was just an average student. His family did not have much money but he started learning a lot about science when he was a teenager. When he found science he knew that he would do that all his life.

College and Family

Louis Pasteur in his laboratory, painting by A. Edelfeldt in 1885

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur decided to be a science teacher. So he went to college in 1838. He did really well in college. He learned all he could and earned degrees in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. He was so good at science that he became a chemistry professor at the University of Strasbourg.

At his new job he met and fell in love with Marie Laurent. They got married in 1849. Louis and Marie had five children. But something terrible happened. Three of his children were very young when they died from typhoid fever. The deaths of his children changed Louis forever. Not only was he sad, but he decided that he was going to learn all about infectious diseases so other children would not have to die from typhoid fever.

Scientific Discoveries

Louis Pasteur dedicated his life to science and discovered a lot of things that make our life better. Here are just a few of his discoveries.

Bacteria and Germ Theory

Louis Pasteur in his laboratory, painting by A. Edelfeldt in 1885

Louis Pasteur in his laboratory

Back in Louis Pasteur’s day everyone thought that microbes like germs and bacteria just appeared. They thought is was almost like magic that nobody could do anything about. When something like that happens it is called “spontaneous generation.”

Of course that is not the way germs and bacteria work but people did not know that. The way you tell if things are true in science is through experiments. So Louis Pasteur did experiments to see how germs and bacteria worked.

He proved that germs and bacteria are living things. They do not just appear. Louis Pasteur made a very important discovery that changed the way biology was studied and the way medicine was practiced. Louis Pasteur was called the “Father of Germ Theory.”

Pasteurization

Pasteur kept learning about germs and microbes and he figured out that they were involved in making things like wine and milk spoil. It was caused by microbes such as bacteria and molds. But here is where Louis Pasteur showed how smart he was. He figured out that if he heated the milk it killed most of the microbes. After the microbes were dead milk lasted a lot longer. This makes milk safer to drink. Heating liquids to kill the microbes is called pasteurization in honor of Pasteur. This is still done to a lot of foods like milk, vinegar, wines, cheese, and juices.

Pasteurization of milk today

Pasteurization of milk today

Silk Worms

Pasteur did not stop learning about microbes. Once the French silk market had a terrible problem because all the silkworms had a disease. They were afraid that it could be the end of the French silk trade.

When things looked really bad, Pasteur thought he should think about the problem scientifically. Sure enough, the disease in the silk worms was caused by microbes. He figured out that if they got rid of all the microbes in the silkworm farms it would eliminate the disease. It worked and Louis Pasteur saved the French silk business.

Vaccinations

57434872Louis Pasteur never forgot how sad it was when is children died so he kept working on preventing diseases. What he figured out that no one else had ever thought of was that if he helped people’s immune system they would not get sick in the first place.

He figured out that if he made a weak form of a disease people could fight that off and then people would become¬†immune¬†to the stronger real disease. Louis Pasteur called this weak form a “vaccine.”

Louis Pasteur found out about vaccines by working with cattle on the disease anthrax. But it is a lot different dealing with people instead of cows. I am sure that he was nervous the first time he gave a human a vaccine. But he saved the life of a nine year old boy in 1885 when he gave him a rabies vaccine.

Legacy

Louis Pasteur is one of the most important scientists in history. When he learned about microbes and diseases he saved millions and millions of lives.

He started the Pasteur Institute in 1887. It is one of the most important organizations for fighting infectious diseases.

In 1895 Louis Pasteur had a stroke and died. He is buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France.

Interesting Facts About Louis Pasteur

  • Louis Pasteur spent his whole life as a deeply religious Christian
  • Because Pasteur learned that micro-organisms like germs caused disease doctors learned to boil their surgical instruments to sterilize them. This did a lot to prevent infections and has saved millions of lives.
  • He once said that “In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.”

Great Mustache

Not only was Louis Pasture a great scientist who advanced the world’s knowledge and health, he also had a bushy mustache and beard. So, when you think of pasteurized milk and vaccines you can also think about Great Mustaches in History.


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