Celebrating 19 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
more quiz questions >>
Thumbnail of Louis Pasteur (source)
Louis Pasteur
(27 Dec 1822 - 28 Sep 1895)

French chemist who became a founder of microbiology. He created and tested vaccines for diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, plague, rabies, anthrax, and tuberculosis.

Pasteur and the Modern Era of Immunization

Drawing of child in chair being inoculated in the chest by doctor while Pasteur looks on.  Colorization © todayinsci.com
An Inoculation for Hydrophobia (1885). (source)

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur and his colleagues injected the first of 14 daily doses of rabbit spinal cord suspensions containing progressively inactivated rabies virus into 9-year-old Joseph Meister, who had been severely bitten by a rabid dog two days before. This was the beginning of the modern era of immunization, which had been presaged by Edward Jenner nearly 100 years earlier.

Pasteur's decision to treat the child followed 4 years of intensive research, culminating in the development of a vaccine capable of protecting experimentally challenged rabbits and dogs. His decision was difficult:1

“The child’s death appeared inevitable. I decided not without acute and harrowing anxiety, as may be imagined, to apply to Joseph Meister the method which I had found consistently successful with dogs.”

The immunization was successful; and the Pasteur rabies immunization procedure was rapidly adopted throughout the world. By 1890, there were rabies treatment centers in Budapest, Madras, Algiers, Bandung, Florence, Sao Paulo, Warsaw, Shanghai, Tunis, Chicago, New York, and many other places throughout the world.

The basic “Pasteur Treatment,” based on brain tissue vaccine with the addition of formaldehyde, is still used in many countries of the world where rabies is prevalent. This treatment still involves immunizations given daily for 14-21 days, and it still carries the same risk of neurologic sequelae as in Pasteur’s day. In the United States and other developed countries, more potent, safer, but very expensive, cell culture-based rabies vaccines are combined with hyperimmune globulin for postexposure treatment. The efficacy of such regimens has been well proven.

Another era in vaccine development is now beginning—an era based on the practical application of recombinant-deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology and other novel genetic manipulations of rabies and other viruses and microorganisms. These new technologies promise even more potent and safer vaccines, as well as lower costs, improved stability, and easier delivery throughout the world to people at risk.

In celebrating the Pasteur centennial, the preeminent role of vaccines in the control of infectious diseases is recognized; as René Dubos stated:2

“Even granted that the antirabies treatment had saved the lives of a few human beings, this would have been only meager return for so much effort . … It is on much broader issues that Pasteur’s achievements must be judged. He had demonstrated the possibility of investigating by rigorous techniques the infectious diseases caused by invisible, noncultivable viruses; he had shown that their pathogenic potentialities could be modified by various laboratory artifices; he had established beyond doubt that a solid immunity could be brought about without endangering the life or health of the vaccinated person. Thanks to the rabies epic … immunization (has) become recognized as a general law of nature. Its importance for the welfare of man and animals is today commonplace, but only the future will reveal its full significance in the realm of human economy”
1 Cuny H. Louis, Pasteur: the Man and His Theories (1963), 173.
2 R.J. Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science (1950), 352-353.

Image, not in original text, added from source shown above, cover picture, from French magazine, L’Illustration (11 Jul 1885), No. 2228, also in Harper’s Weekly (19 Dec 1885), v.29, 836. Text from Div. of Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 'Historical Perspectives A Centennial Celebration: Pasteur and the Modern Era of Immunization', MMWR Weekly (5 Jul 1985), 34, No. 6, 389-90. (source)

See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.