About Louis Pasteur: Father of Germ Theory

Who is Louis Pasteur?

Here we are, the second time this month with a HISTORICAL blog! A couple weeks ago I talked about President James A. Garfield's actual cause of death. Spoiler: it wasn't the bullet that killed him. It was the infection caused by doctors at the scene of the shooting that stuck their unwashed, contaminated fingers inside of his body trying to fish the bullet out. It eventually led to sepsis and he passed away a few months later.

You might be asking yourself why they would even attempt such a feat without waiting for a sterile environment and sterile equipment. Well, it's because the concept of germs wasn't taken seriously at the time. They didn't believe you could get sick from unwashed hands or surfaces. That's where Louis Pasteur comes in, our Father of Germ Theory.

The 'Germ Theory of Disease' states that certain diseases are caused by specific germs or infectious agents. Which seems obvious to us now, right? But back in the 1800s, there was another widely accepted theory - the spontaneous generation theory. This theory basically claimed that life originated spontaneously from inanimate objects. For example, those that believed this theory believed that the recipe for mice (yes, MICE), was rotting wheat, an old cloth, and 21 days of waiting. 

Louis Pasteur began his journey towards establishing the germ theory by first disproving the spontaneous generation theory. This was motivated by the observation of live organisms in fermented beer. Thus began his many experiments with the fermentation of various liquids. He quickly discovered that when boiled first and then left to cool, the liquid never fermented, but when left alone, the microbes in the air are what caused the liquid to ferment at all. 

He then extended this observation to diseases in humans and animals. He proposed that diseases were caused by a presence of harmful germs in the body. From there, he studied and experimented with a variety of diseases, including rabies in humans. He furthered the vaccination research of Edward Jenner and ended up being the first person to develop a vaccine!

You've heard the word 'pasteurization' (did a lightbulb just turn on in your brain?): the process in which heat has been applied to the food to make it safe for consumption. Next time you see it or hear it, you'll think of where it came from, Louis Pasteur, and his major contribution of germ theory.

Bonus Fact! Louis Pasteur never shook the hands of anyone, including royalty, in fear of contracting germs. We think he would have been a big fan of PhoneSoap

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