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Louis Pasteur: Renowned microbiologist and chemist

Most of you may have drunk pasteurised milk, but have you ever wondered how this word 'pasteurisation' came about? It's because this technology known as pasteurisation was introduced by the French microbiologist and chemist Louis Pasteur.

Besides pasteurisation, which prevented milk and wine from going sour, some of his other outstanding contributions were, changing the hospital practices of the day to prevent the spread of germs, the use of weakened microbes to fight stronger germs and the rabies vaccine.

Pasteur's experiments confirmed the germ theory of disease, that most infectious diseases are caused by germs. This is one of the most important foundations in the science of microbiology and the cornerstone of modern medicine. Although not the inventors of this theory, he, along with Robert Koch, became known as the 'fathers of germ theory' due to the many experiments they conducted in this area. They were also the founders of bacteriology.

Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822, the son of a tanner, in an area known as Dole in France. He grew up in the town of Arbois. Although he wasn't initially good at studies, he was skilled in the drawing of portraits.

However, his father wanted him to pursue his studies seriously and was encouraged by his school headmaster to apply for the school, Ecole Normale Superieure, where he was accepted. In 1848, he served briefly as the Professor of Physics at the Dijon Lycee.

Later, he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the Strasbourg University where he met his future wife, Marie Laurent. They had five children although only two survived into adulthood. In 1854, he was appointed Dean of the New College of Science in Lille. In 1856, he became the administrator and director of the Ecole Normale Superieure.

In April 1862, he successfully conducted tests with Claude Bernard and found that the heating of milk kills bacteria and mould in it, without destroying the properties of the liquid, thus prolonging its life. This process came to be called pasteurisation.

He also developed the idea of anaerobiosis, where some micro-organisms can develop and live without air or oxygen. His work on chicken cholera led to the improvement of immunisation and also created the anthrax vaccine, for which he was awarded a patent. Vaccines were already in use around this time, but his work revolutionised work done in infectious diseases.

He introduced the rabies vaccine by growing it in rabbits and then weakening it. Though not a doctor, Pasteur treated a dog-bite victim with this vaccine, but since the experiment was a success, no legal action was taken against him and he was treated as a hero.

He died in Dole on September 28, 1895 and was buried in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.But his remains are now kept at a crypt at the Pasteur Institute, which he helped set up in 1887.

This institute is dedicated to the study of biology, micro-organisms, diseases and vaccines.

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