Details

Date1859
AuthorPasteur
ContributionExpressed the opinion that the causes of contagious diseases are similar to the causes of fermentation.
ReferenceVallery-Radot
NotesThe opinion is recorded in a one-sentence paragraph in a note on the fermentation of sugar. The paragraph is placed directly after a paragraph describing the role of microorganisms in fermentation, and it may be translated as "Similarily, everthing points to the conclusion that contagious diseases owe their existence to causes of the same nature." In context, and in the absence of any further qualification, it is likely that the term "contagious diseases" was intended to refer to diseases of humans. The note was not published by Pasteur, but was included in Vallery-Radot's published collection of Pasteur's works. According to Vallery-Radot the note was written by Pasteur for transmittal to the Minister for Public Instruction and Culture, and through him to Emperor Napoleon III. See website of the French National Library: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k73580/f554.table. It may be noted editorially that it was not until 1865 (six years later) that Pasteur was made aware of the pebrine disease of silkworm and started working on the problems of the silk industry. This note of 1859 thus appears to be an early and enigmatic indication that Pasteur was making an association between microbes and infectious disease. Yet in 1865, Pasteur (according to Waller, 2002) was of the opinion that pebrine was a hereditary disease and that his contemporary Bechamp was utterly wrong in attributing it to microscopic organisms like those causing fermentation. In subsequent years Pasteur would come to accept the microbial etiology of pebrine.
CategoryCausation
Pathogen ClassGeneral

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