About this Famous Person
French chemist and microbiologist
Source : Olivier PASTEUR
Louis Pasteur was born in the Jura region of France, into the family of a poor tanner. Louis grew up in the town of Arbois. He gained degrees in Letters and in Mathematical Sciences before entering the École Normale Supérieure, an elite college. After serving briefly as professor of physics at Dijon Lycée in 1848, he became professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg, where he met and courted Marie Laurent, daughter of the university's rector, in 1849. They were married on May 29, 1849, and together had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood, two died of typhoid and one of a brain tumor. These personal tragedies inspired Pasteur to try to find cures for diseases such as typhoid.
In Pasteur's early work as a chemist, he resolved a problem concerning the nature of tartaric acid (1849). A solution of this compound derived from living things (specifically, wine lees) rotated the plane of polarization of light passing through it. The mystery was that tartaric acid derived by chemical synthesis had no such effect, even though its chemical reactions were identical and its elemental composition was the same.
Upon examination of the minuscule crystals of sodium ammonium tartrate, Pasteur noticed that the crystals came in two asymmetric forms that were mirror images of one another. Tediously sorting the crystals by hand gave two forms of the compound: solutions of one form rotated polarized light clockwise, while the other form rotated light counterclockwise. An equal mix of the two had no polarizing effect on light. Pasteur correctly deduced the molecule in question was asymmetric and could exist in two different forms that resemble one another as would left- and right-hand gloves, and that the biological source of the compound provided purely the one type. This was the first time anyone had demonstrated chiral molecules.
Pasteur's doctoral thesis on crystallography attracted the attention of M. Puillet and he helped Pasteur garner a position of professor of chemistry at the Faculté (College) of Strasbourg.
In the year of 1854, Louis was named Dean of the new Faculty of Sciences in Lille. In 1856, he was made administrator and director of scientific studies of the École Normale Supérieure.
- Category Physician