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Happy Birthday, Louis Pasteur!

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EIRNS—Today, December 27, marks 200 years since the birth of Louis Pasteur. Initially fascinated by crystallography and chemistry, Pasteur made fundamental discoveries in the chirality (handedness) of living processes. This led to more questions about what distinguishes living from nonliving processes. Pasteur knew that dissymmetry existed in the cosmos, and throughout his life experimented with ways to understand how such cosmic principles were lawfully brought upward into the living domain.

As a young chemist, he rejected the rigid categories of knowledge prevalent in science and took a microscope to investigate what seemed to be a chemical process—fermentation. After thousands of years of brewing and baking, Pasteur was able to prove that they were the result of living organisms—yeast. This led him to expand his investigations into the microscopic world of bacteria and their role in causing diseases in animals and humans, as well as attacking the popular notion of spontaneous generation. He played a central role in the development of “germ theory.” Pasteur used his rigorous experimental techniques and his commitment to improve the lives of millions, the way a boxer uses his fists, to defeat the axioms which prevented progress. He discovered the causes of chicken cholera and anthrax and developed vaccines to prevent both. He refused to patent any of his vaccines, saying that he would never be free if he did so. His campaign to find a vaccine for rabies led him to tackle a virus which could not be “seen” until the development of the electron microscope. Frequently attacked by members of the medical profession, he even risked being charged with murder if his injections of young Joseph Meister led to his death. He fought for sterile conditions in the operating room and ran for the French Senate to promote public sanitation. He developed a cadre of young scientists who went on to make their own discoveries regarding diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, syphilis, whooping cough, and many other illnesses, based on Pasteur’s methods.

Honored at the Sorbonne on his 70th birthday in 1892, Pasteur said, “You delegates of foreign countries who have come to show your sympathy for France, have given me the greatest joy a man can feel who believes that Science and Peace can prevail over Ignorance and War, that the nations will learn to understand each other, not for destruction but for advancement and that the future belongs to those who have done most for suffering mankind.”

To those who promote the absurd idea that man is just an animal, let us raise a glass (perhaps champagne) to the enduring legacy of Louis Pasteur. [rph]