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Spurred by his mentors’ encouragement, he undertook rigorous studies to compensate for his academic shortcomings in order to prepare for the École Normale Supérieure, the famous teachers’ college in Paris.
In 1857 Pasteur returned to the École Normale as director of scientific studies.
In the modest laboratory that he was permitted to establish there, he continued his study of fermentation and fought long, hard battles against the theory of spontaneous generation.
This investigation led to his discovery of how to make vaccines by attenuating, or weakening, the microbe involved.
Pasteur usually “refreshed” the laboratory cultures he was studying—in this case, fowl cholera—every few days; that is, he returned them to virulence by reintroducing them into laboratory chickens with the resulting onslaught of disease and the birds’ death.
The process was later extended to all sorts of other spoilable substances, such as milk.
At the same time Pasteur began his fermentation studies, he adopted a related view on the cause of diseases.Months into the experiments, Pasteur let cultures of fowl cholera stand idle while he went on vacation.When he returned and the same procedure was attempted, the chickens did not become diseased as before.Pasteur did not, however, fully engage in studies of disease until the late 1870s, after several cataclysmic changes had rocked his life and that of the French nation.In 1868, in the middle of his silkworm studies, he suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed his left side.Figuring prominently in early rounds of these debates were various applications of his pasteurization process, which he originally invented and patented (in 1865) to fight the “diseases” of wine.He realized that these were caused by unwanted microorganisms that could be destroyed by heating wine to a temperature between 60° and 100°C.Pasteur was born in Dole, France, the middle child of five in a family that had for generations been leather tanners.Young Pasteur’s gifts seemed to be more artistic than academic until near the end of his years in secondary school.On May 31 all the animals were inoculated with virulent anthrax bacilli, and two days later, on June 2, the crowd reassembled.Pasteur and his collaborators arrived to great applause.