Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist. He was one of the most prominent scientists of all time, who discovered many scientific marvels of consequence. His prodigious work resulted in pioneering advances in microbiology, germ theory of
disease, pasteurization, sterilization, and immunology resulting in his greatest achievement, the vaccine. One of Pasteur’s greatest quality was his ability to unify
abstract theories about the origins of life, from a variety of disciplines, with practical
scientific discoveries that amazingly transformed public health. Pasteur’s thinking was a
‘constant interplay…..between rigorous, logical thinking and highly imaginative dreams
about the mysteries of life’ and it enabled him to ‘engage in thoughts of cosmic
grandeur that went far beyond practical realities’ (Rene Dubos)
Pasteur revolutionized our understanding of the causes and preventions of diseases through his contributions to the germ theory of disease and immunology. He created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. However, he is best known for inventing the process named after him, pasteurization, which is a method to treat milk and wine in order to prevent it from causing sickness.
He was born in 1822 to a poor family in the Jura region of France. In his early years, he was regarded as an average student at best, though he was as avid drawer and painter and some of his works are displayed in the museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He attended École Normale Supérieure and graduated with both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Pasteur’s work in the field of chemistry, notably his discovery of the molecular basis for
the asymmetry of certain crystals earned him a position first at the University of Strasbourg, and then at the University of Lille. In 1837, French chemist Auguste Laurent proposed what he called a nucleus theory of molecules. According to this theory, properties of the molecules depend on the geometric arrangement of their constituent atoms. He devised a systematic nomenclature for organic chemistry based on the structural grouping of atoms within molecules. Pasteur worked with Laurent when they were graduate students. His work further refined Laurent’s work in making structure of the molecules the basis of their properties. Pasteur was inspired by an 1844 report that some tartrate crystals – wine dregs – were optically active and some were not, even though both kinds were chemically identical. In 1849, Pasteur discovered that all tartrate crystals are optically active but that the acid crystallizes into one of two forms that rotate light in opposite directions. In the last 1850s, Pasteur noted that penicillin mold consumes just one of these forms and hypothesized that spatial arrangement of atoms was determines this property. Thus, Pasteur contributed to the revolutionary idea that
properties of molecules do not depend only on their atomic constitution, but also on how the those atoms are arranged in space. This idea resulted in the creation of a new scientific field called Stereochemistry.
Both Laurent Pasteur studied under Jean-Baptiste Dumas, another great French chemist, who introduced the world to the determination of atomic weights and molecular weights by measuring their vapor densities. Dumas was a very devout Christian and used scientific arguments to defend his faith in God and in Christ.
In 1849 Pasteur married Marie Laurent, and their union produced five children. Pasteur motivated his children to work hard and to acquire good manners. In a letter, Pasteur wrote his son Jean-Baptiste: ‘The honor of spending a week in the Emperor’s company which I have just received will make you understand the rewards of hard work and good conduct. You should therefore also work hard, so that one day, God willing, you may have the same satisfaction’ (Debra)
Pasteur did exhaustive research on milk, beer, and wine and demonstrated that
microorganisms were responsible for their spoilage with time. He explained the process of fermentation, and developed the liquid purification technique known as “pasteurization”. Then he commenced the work on germ theory of disease. Until that point evolutionists falsely claimed that microorganisms could arise by spontaneous generation from nonliving matter. Pasteur put that myth to rest through his 1859 experiment in which he boiled a meat broth in a goose neck flask and showed that no living organisms were born out of the boiled meat.
Despite Pasteur’s conclusive evidence, evolutionists still believe original life arose through abiogenesis, from nonliving matter. Later he developed Germ Theory of Disease based on his observations from the experiments, he conducted between 1860 and 1864. In 1862, young Pasteur wrote a very long letter to the minister in charge of overseeing research: ‘I have come to the conclusion that the destruction of organic matter is due mainly to the proliferation of microscopic beings endowed with the special ability to break down complex organic matter, to initiate slow combustion and to bind oxygen, abilities by which these beings become the most active agents of that necessary return to the atmosphere of everything that has had life of which I spoke earlier. I have demonstrated that the atmosphere within which we live constantly carries the germs of these microscopic beings, which are always ready to grow within dead matter, where thy can fulfill the destructive role that sustains their own life. And if God had not seen to it that the organic laws governing the mutations of tissues and liquids in living bodies prevent their propagation, at least in the normal conditions of life and health, we would live under the constant threat of being overwhelmed by them.’ (Debra) These words show that Pasteur believed that human body was created by God and its amazingly designed immune system is vital in fighting off deadly pathogens.
Pasteur’s ideas in germ theory were put to practical use by British surgeon Joseph Lister and Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, and their efforts morphed into antiseptic sanitation in medical environments, which drastically reduced mortality due to contagious infections. Pasteur also rescued the silkworm industry in France by advising silkworm farmers on how to eliminate microscopic parasites that killed silkworms. Shortly after, Pasteur started his research on anthrax outbreak among sheep and invented vaccine immunization for anthrax.
Immunization is the process by which our body gets protection against a pathogen. By
introducing a weakened form of infectious agent into our body, the immune system’s arsenal of producing antibodies against the infectious agent is activated and when the stronger form of the infectious agent enters the body in the future, the immune system fights it off aggressively using immunological memory. This groundbreaking discovery resulted in the mass production of vaccines around the world. Despite the myths surrounding them, vaccines save millions of lives around the world.
In the summer of 1885, a French woman arrived in Pasteur’s lab, seeking help for her
son, who had been bitten by a rabid dog. Her nine-year old son, Joseph Meister aggravated a dog by poking it with a stick and the rabid dog had lacerated him severely. Despite the prematurity of his research, Pasteur agreed to treat the boy and gave him in the abdomen 14 injections of a weakened form of the rabies vaccine. Even though he was not a medical doctor, Pasteur took great risk in treating the boy. He could have been arrested for treating young Joseph without a medical license. Pasteur’s treatment was a great success, and he rescued the young boy from the jaws of death.
He founded the Pasteur Institute in 1887 as a haven for interdisciplinary research and
application in the life sciences. In the latter years of his life Pasteur’s physical strength dwindled as a result of strokes. The great scientist rested into eternity on September 28,1895 at the age of 72. He was honored with a state funeral with a huge processional through Paris, ending at the Notre Dame Cathedral where Pasteur was buried. Later, his body was moved to a tomb at the Pasteur Institute.
There is a tender story surrounding Pasteur’s tomb. In 1940, the Nazis occupied Paris and
wanted to vandalize Pasteur’s tomb. At that time, Joseph Meister, the first human to receive Pasteur’s vaccine for rabies was the caretaker of the Pasteur Institute. The Nazis gave him an ultimatum to hand over the keys to Pasteur’s tomb site. Meister refused and committed suicide at the age of 64. He could not allow himself to see the desecration of the grave of the great scientist who saved his life from rabies.
God in Pasteur’s Life:
Pasteur was born into a Catholic family. Earlier in his life, he possessed more of a general
spirituality than a commitment to religious practice, that he was ‘a believer not a
sectarian’ (Debre). He believed that God is the true source of human dignity, of liberty
and modern democracy. He once wrote, ‘The idea of God is a form of the idea of the
infinite. As long as the mystery of the infinite weights on human thinking, temples will
be erected for the cult of the infinite, whether the God is called Brahma, Allah, Jehovah,
or Jesus. And on the tiled floors of these temples you will see humans kneeling,
prostrate, deeply immersed in thoughts of the infinite………Where are the true sources
of human dignity, of liberty and modern democracy, if not in the notion of the infinite
before which all men are equal?’
He described his passion in science as a God given enthusiasm. He once wrote, ‘The Greeks understood the mysterious power of these hidden things when they created the word enthusiasm, literally the God within’ (Debra). He believed that “in each of us there are two men, the scientist and the man of faith or doubt…the two domains are distinct” (Cross).
He considered his work in scientific disciplines as a pursuit of exposing the hidden secrets of God’s creation. Pasteur wrote his father that he was working hard at ‘trying to lift a little corner of the veil with which God has covered everything he had made’ (Debra)
He remained a devout Catholic throughout his life, proclaiming unwavering faith in God. He bluntly rejected Darwinism because its assertions do not stand scientific scrutiny. He disproved evolutionists’ long held hypothesis that life could evolve from nonliving matter through his famous long neck experiment. He once said, ‘Posterity will one day laugh at the foolishness of the modern materialistic philosophers. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the works of the Creator. I pray while I am engaged in my work in the laboratory’ (Russell).
Many of the postulates evolutionists put forward stem from their imagination without concrete evidence in nature. They still believe in the spontaneous generation of life from nonliving matter even though Pasteur disproved that hypothesis with his famous experiment. Pasteur’s words are a reminder that we should never put more credence in imagination when it is contrary to evidence: “Imagination should give wings to our thoughts but we always need decisive experimental proof, and when the moment comes to draw conclusions and to interpret the gathered observations, imagination must be checked and dominated by the factual results of the experiment”
Overall, Louis Pasteur proved that one could become a great scientist while having faith in Creator God.
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