In public demonstrations at Pouilly-le-Fort before crowds of observers, twenty-four sheep, one goat, and six cows were subjected to a two-part course of inoculations with the new vaccine, on May 5, 1881, and again on May 17.
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.
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 could easily have deduced that the culture was dead and could not be revived, but instead he was inspired to inoculate the experimental chickens with a virulent culture.
Amazingly, the chickens survived and did not become diseased; they were protected by a microbe attenuated over time.
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.
Pasteur secured his academic credentials with scientific papers on this and related research and was then appointed in 1848 to the faculty of sciences in Strasbourg and in 1854 to the faculty in Lille. Pasteur sided with the minority view among his contemporaries that each type of fermentation is carried out by a living microorganism.
At the time the majority believed that fermentation was spontaneously generated by a series of chemical reactions in which enzymes—themselves not yet securely identified with life—played a critical role.