Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was appointed Professor of Geology, Physics & Chemistry, École nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris to 1867. In this period he perfected, with physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878), experiments on heat-control of microbial processes in fluids such as milk and wine which led to pasteurization. He further generalised his ideas of beverage-souring to human diseases similarly caused by invisible microbes (yeasts, fungi, bacteria), influencing Joseph Lister. In 1858he published Mémoire sur la fermentation appelée lactique [Memoir on Lactic Fermentation]. —  the foundation stone of the cell theory, microbiology, and bacteriology.

Pasteur also decisively contradicted the current ideas of spontaneous chemical generation, and furthered the Germ Theory of unicellular microbes as agents, with his famous swan-neck flasks experiments, whose contents remained sterile in the absence of air/contamination, and won him the Alhumbert Prize of the French Academy of Sciences, 1862.

In 1885 Pasteur and Emile Roux make their celebrated first application of a vaccine described as for "canine madness (which is, perhaps, a bacterial disease), by the cautious inoculation of micro-organisms in various degrees of attenuation" (CF 140). The bacterial hypothesis proved to be wrong, though "cow-pox virus" was a long-standing description from the earlier work of Jenner on Variolae Vaccinae of 1798. Until 1896 and the pioneering bacteriophage work of Hankin, the terms virus, microbe, and bacterium were largely interchangeable and scarcely differentiated.

Pasteur's notebooks and papers were held by family until 1971, then donated to the Biblioteque Nationale de France. The study of Geison (1995) introduced new materials to scientific biography, but also controversy over Pasteur's priorities, publications, and ethics.


Bulloch, William. The History of Bacteriology. University of London Heath Clark Lectures for 1936. Oxford: O.U.P., 1938.

de Kruif, Paul. Microbe Hunters. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1926.

Geison, Gerald. The Private Science of Louis Pasteur. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Herter, Christian A. The Influence of Pasteur on Medical Science: An Address to the Medical School of Johns Hopkins University. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1904.

Nicolle, J. Louis Pasteur. A Master of Scientific Enquiry. London: Hutchinson, 1971.

Last modified 9 December 2016