By Gerald L. Geison
In The inner most technology of Louis Pasteur, Gerald Geison has written a debatable biography that at last penetrates the secrecy that has surrounded a lot of this mythical scientist's laboratory paintings. Geison makes use of Pasteur's laboratory notebooks, made to be had only in the near past, and his released papers to provide a wealthy and entire account of a few of the main well-known episodes within the historical past of technology and their darker sides--for instance, Pasteur's rush to boost the rabies vaccine and the human dangers his haste entailed. The discrepancies among the general public list and the "private technology" of Louis Pasteur let us know as a lot in regards to the guy as they do in regards to the hugely aggressive and political international he discovered to master.
Although experimental ingenuity served Pasteur good, he additionally owed a lot of his good fortune to the polemical virtuosity and political savvy that gained him unheard of monetary help from the French nation throughout the overdue 19th century. yet an in depth examine his maximum achievements increases moral matters. in terms of Pasteur's greatly publicized anthrax vaccine, Geison finds its preliminary defects and the way Pasteur, for you to steer clear of embarrassment, secretly included a rival colleague's findings to make his model of the vaccine paintings. Pasteur's untimely selection to use his rabies remedy to his first animal-bite sufferers increases even deeper questions and has to be understood not just when it comes to the ethics of human experimentation and medical technique, but additionally in gentle of Pasteur's shift from a organic thought of immunity to a chemical theory--similar to ones he had usually disparaged while complex via his competitors.
Through his bright reconstruction of the pro rivalries in addition to the nationwide adulation that surrounded Pasteur, Geison areas him in his wider cultural context. In giving Pasteur the shut scrutiny his reputation and achievements deserve, Geison's booklet bargains compelling studying for someone drawn to the social and moral dimensions of technology.
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Additional resources for The Private Science of Louis Pasteur
During part of 1856, by which time his research interests had turned to fermentation, Pasteur went regularly to the beetroot alcohol factory of M. Bigo, where he sought to discover the cause of and remedies for recent disappointments in the quality of that product. Such efforts had just begun to yield results when, in September 1857, the directorship of scientific studies at the Ecole Normale fell vacant. "13 These positions carried with them neither laboratory nor allowance for research expenses, and in order to continue his scientific work, Pasteur was obliged to evade bureaucratic regulations and to rely on his own ingenuity.
Bernard himself had done much to expose this danger in his famous Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), a masterful discussion of Scientific Method by one of its leading practitioners. Yet somehow, Pasteur insisted, Bernard had forgotten his own wise precepts in these private notes on fermentation. Bernard had been led astray, Pasteur continued, by his a priori conviction of a fundamental opposition between organic syntheses and organic decompositions. He supposed that organic syntheses were peculiarly vital phenomena, while organic decompositions—including fermentation, combustion, and putrefaction—were physicochemical rather than vital processes.
Now determined to seek entrance to the science section of the Ecole Normale, Louis stayed at the college in Besancon to prepare for a second baccalaureate degree, this one in science. His family's financial burdens were eased by his appointment there as "preparation master" or tutor, which paid room and board as well as a small annual salary. After two years 24 CHAPTER TWO of study in the class of special mathematics, Pasteur received his baccalaureate in science in August 1842, though in physics he was considered merely "passable" and in chemistry "mediocre " Two weeks later he was declared admissible to the Ecole Normale, but he was dissatisfied with his rank of fifteenth among twenty-two candidates and declined admission for the time being In September 1842, having also considered a career as an engineer, Pasteur took, but failed, the entrance examination of the famous Ecole Polytechmque in Pans 3 He then decided to spend another year preparing for the Ecole Normale To do so, he returned to Pans and a boarding school run by one M Barbet, himself a Franc-Comtois This tune, unlike four years before, he overcame his homesickness and stayed at the school, whose students attended the classes of the Lycee Saint-Louis, one of the leading preparatory schools for the Ecole Normale By now Pasteur's discipline and diligence were beginning to be matched by his achievements At the end of his first year in Pans, he took first prize in physics at the Lycee Saint-Louis and was admitted fourth on the list of candidates to the science section of the Ecole Normale, which he entered at the start of the next academic year For the next five years, from his twenty-first through his twenty-sixth year, Pasteur studied and worked at the Ecole Normale To qualify for a position in secondary education, he competed in the two national certifying examinations, the license and the agregatwn He placed seventh in the license competition of 1845 and third in the physical sciences in the agrigation of 1846 In October 1846 he was appointed preparateur in chemistry at the Ecole Normale, a position that allowed him to continue working toward his doctorate In August 1847 Pasteur became docteur-es-saences on the basis of theses in both physics and chemistry While awaiting appointment elsewhere, he continued to serve as preparateur in chemistry at the Ecole Normale and quickly began to win a reputation in scientific circles for his work on the relation between chemical composition, crystalline structure, and optical activity in organic compounds Certainly by this point, if not long before, Pasteur had far outgrown his father's early aspirations for him The prospect of a teaching career in a provincial lycee no longer satisfied him Like other candidates for positions in the state educational system, Louis did still expect to begin his career in the French provinces But he now hoped to be spared the heavy lycee teaching load and to be appointed instead to a university-level faculty of science, where he might be able to continue his research And he already had his sights firmly fixed on an eventual career among the scientific elite in Pans 4 When revolution rocked Paris in February 1848, young Louis at first took no part But in April, after the Second Republic had been declared, he briefly PASTEUR IN BRIEF 25 joined the National Guard, a municipal militia charged with the maintenance of civil order, and contributed his savings of 150 francs to the republican cause 5 At the end of May 1848, when his immediate future was yet to be settled, his mother suddenly fell sick and died, apparently the victim of a cerebral hemorrhage Pasteur blamed her death partly on her anxiety about his living in strife-torn Pans His father, who shared this concern, now also had sole responsibility for Louis's three sisters, all of whom were still at home in Arbois and one of whom had been severely retarded since being struck by a cerebral fever at the age of three Louis knew that some of his father's anxieties would be reduced if he left Pans He therefore asked the Ministry of Public Instruction to release him from his position at the Ecole Normale and to appoint him instead to some provincial post, even if that meant that he would be forced to go to a lycee On 16 September 1848, Pasteur was named professor of physics at the lycee in Dijon, though he was allowed to remain in Paris through the first days of November in order to complete some exciting new research on optical activity and crystalline asymmetry in tartaric and racemic acid When his duties at the lycee could no longer be postponed, he took consolation in the relative proximity of Dijon to his father and sisters and in his expectation that he would not be there for long 6 Pasteur's prediction was confirmed even sooner than he expected By late December 1848, just a few weeks after he started teaching at Dijon, he had applied for and won appointment as professeur suppleant (acting professor) of chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences in Strasbourg After a fleeting concern about the possible effects of this distant move on his family, he eagerly looked forward to his transfer of duties, finally arriving in Strasbourg toward the end of January 1849 7 A whirlwind courtship must have begun right away, for in less than a month he proposed marriage to Mane Laurent, daughter of the rector of the Strasbourg Academy In a formal letter of proposal to her father, dated 10 February 1849, Pasteur spoke of his family's solvent but modest financial circumstances, putting the value of its total assets at no more than 50,000 francs, which he had already decided should go to his sisters All that he had to offer, he wrote, was "good health, a good nature, and my position in the University "8 At the age of twenty-six, he married Mane Laurent on 29 May 1849 At Strasbourg, where he spent nearly six years, Pasteur continued and greatly extended his work on optical activity and crystalline asymmetry in spite of expanding teaching duties From 1850 on, his letters reveal an increasing impatience with his position as acting professor While pressing his claims upon his friends and the Ministry of Public Instruction, he followed closely the rumors and intrigues of French academic life in hopes of 26 CHAPTER TWO securing a more satisfactory position.