Louis Pasteur


Louis Pasteur : biography

27 December 1822 – 28 September 1895

Faith and spirituality

His grandson, Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot, wrote that Pasteur had only kept from his Catholic background a spiritualism without religious practice,Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Letter to Paul Dupuy, 1939, quoted by Hilaire Cuny, Pasteur et le mystère de la vie, Paris, Seghers, 1963, p. 53–54. Patrice Pinet, Pasteur et la philosophie, Paris, 2005, p. 134–135, quotes analogous assertions of Pasteur Vallery-Radot, with references to Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Pasteur inconnu, p. 232, and André George, Pasteur, Paris, 1958, p. 187. According to Maurice Vallery-Radot (Pasteur, 1994, p. 378), the false quotation appeared for the first time in the Semaine religieuse …. du diocèse de Versailles, October 6, 1895, p. 153, shortly after the death of Pasteur. although Catholic observers often said Louis Pasteur remained throughout his whole life an ardent Christian, and his son-in-law, in perhaps the most complete biography of Louis Pasteur, writes:

Maurice Vallery-Radot, grandson of the brother of the son-in-law of Pasteur and outspoken Catholic, also holds that Pasteur fundamentally remained Catholic. According to both Pasteur Vallery-Radot and Maurice Vallery-Radot, the following well-known quotation attributed to Pasteur is apocryphal:Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Letter to Paul Dupuy, 1939, quoted by Hilaire Cuny, Pasteur et le mystère de la vie, Paris, Seghers, 1963, p. 53–54. "The more I know, the more nearly is my faith that of the Breton peasant. Could I but know all I would have the faith of a Breton peasant’s wife". According to Maurice Vallery-Radot,Pasteur, 1994, p. 378. the false quotation appeared for the first time shortly after the death of Pasteur.In Pasteur’s Semaine religieuse …. du diocèse de Versailles, October 6, 1895, p. 153. However, despite his belief in God, it has been said that his views were that of a freethinker rather than a Catholic, a spiritual more than a religious man. He was also against mixing science with religion.


In many localities worldwide, streets are named in his honor. For example, in the USA: Palo Alto and Irvine, California, Boston and Polk, Florida, adjacent to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Jonquière, Québec; San Salvador de Jujuy and Buenos Aires (Argentina), Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, in the United Kingdom, Jericho and Wulguru in Queensland, (Australia); Phnom Penh in Cambodia; Ho Chi Minh City; Batna in Algeria; Bandung in Indonesia, Tehran in Iran, near the central campus of the Warsaw University in Warsaw, Poland; adjacent to the Odessa State Medical University in Odessa, Ukraine; Milan in Italy and Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timişoara in Romania. The Avenue Pasteur in Saigon, Vietnam, is one of the few streets in that city to retain its French name.

Avenue Louis Pasteur in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area in Boston, Massachusetts was named in his honor in the French manner with "Avenue" preceding the name of the dedicatee.

The Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and a large university hospital in Košice, Slovakia are also named after him.

His statue is erected at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California.

A bronze bust of Pasteur resides on the French Campus of Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center in San Francisco, California. The sculpture was designed by Harriet G. Moore and cast in 1984 by Artworks Foundry.

Early life

Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822, in Dole, Jura, France, into a Catholic family of a poor tanner. He was the third child of Jean-Joseph Pasteur and Jeanne-Etiennette Roqui. In 1827 the family moved to Arbois, where Pasteur entered primary school in 1831. He was an average student in his early years, and not particularly academic, as his interests were fishing and sketching. His pastels and portraits of his parents and friends, made when he was 15, were later kept in the museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 1838 he left for Paris to join the Institution Barbet, but became homesick and returned home in November. In 1839 he entered the Collège Royal de Besançon and earned his BA degree in 1840. He continued there for a BSc degree with special mathematics but failed in 1841. He succeeded in 1842 from Dijon with a poor grade in chemistry. After failing the entrance test for the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1842, he succeeded in 1844, and received his medical license the next year. In 1846 he was appointed professor of physics at the Collège de Tournon at Ardèche, but Professor Antoine Jérome Balard wanted him back at the École Normale Supérieure as a graduate assistant (préparateur) for chemistry courses. He joined Balard and simutaneously started his research in crystallography. In 1847 he submitted his two theses, one in chemistry and the other in physics. After serving briefly as professor of physics at the 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; the other three died of typhoid. These personal tragedies were his motivations for curing infectious diseases.