Challenging Scientific Orthodoxy

Luis Pasteur was born in 1822 in France. He was dyslexic and had dysgraphia (a writing disorder). As a result of his learning challenges, he was an indifferent student who was more interested in drawing than in academic subjects.

He was admitted to college but struggled especially in chemistry. With persistence, he became an outstanding student, eventually earning degrees in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Eventually, he would hold a number of academic and research positions at universities.

One of Luis’ areas of research was the fermentation process with a special emphasis on wine. The majority opinion among scientists was that fermentation was a result of a spontaneous chemical reaction. Luis disagreed and thought that fermentation was caused by a living microorganism.

In order to prove his theory, Luis discovered the impact of different microorganisms on fermentation, and also their impact on the spoiling of wine, beer, and milk. To counter the effect of these microorganisms, Luis discovered that heating the liquids to a specific temperature would kill the microorganisms and prevent the from spoiling. Thus the pasteurization of milk became the standard practice as we know it today.

While Luis is best known for the sanitary treatment of milk, he made a number of other important medical advances including:

  • Germs as a leading cause of diseases
  • The development of vaccines for rabies and anthrax
  • The development of microbiology as a contributor to the understanding of medical advances

Just imagine what Luis Pasteur’s career would be like today. It’s not hard to imagine the social media posts disputing the discovery of germs as a leading cause of disease. Or what about conspiracy theories surrounding the pasteurization of milk? What about the Congressional hearings he might have had to endure resulting from his work on vaccines? What does it say about our society today when bizarre conspiracies can rival scientific studies for what is truth?

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“The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely great.” – Luis Pasteur

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