Pasteur became interested in the growth or culturing of certain microbes and developed a process of transferring selective organisms from one batch to another to maintain good quality wine I addition, he also demonstrated the presence of bacteria in the air.
Pasteur found that airborne organisms could be kept out of sterile materials by plugging the tops with sterile cotton and still have air circulate in the bottle. This technique is still used today in microbiological laboratories as a part of regular sterilizing techniques. Later, his work expanded to involve disease of animals and humans.
Pasteur was familiar with the work of another famous microbiologist, Robert Koch (1843-1910). Koch had discovered the bacterium that caused anthrax in cattle and demonstrated the progression of the disease.
The excitement generated by Koch’s work encouraged Pasteur to investigate anthrax. As a result, Pasteur demonstrated that he could prevent anthrax in cattle by injecting healthy animals with live anthrax bacteria that had been specially treated to reduce their disease-causing ability.
His success with anthrax led him to investigate hydrophobia, or rabies. He had worked for several years to prevent this disease in animals by using much the same techniques that had worked with anthrax.
In 1885, his efforts were put to the test when a frightened mother sought out Pasteur for help. Her son, Joseph Meister, had been bitten by a rapid animal and Pasteur began treating the body for rabies. The body survived and Pasteur was again praised for his brilliant work.
Louis Pasteur is known the world over as one of the great men of science. He is credited with starting microbiologists down a path of research in the area of preventive medicine. His concern for the prevention of diseases by inoculation eventually led to the founding of the science of immunology.
During this same period in history, Robert Koch began a comparable career investigating microbes. His efforts led to achievements as exciting and important as those of Pasteur. Koch began research into the isolation and identification of individual microbes, especially bacteria. Because of this work, he is regarded by many as the first true bacteriologist.
His work eventually led to the founding of the sciences of medical microbiology, bacteriology, and virology. Koch was educated as a physician and chose to practice in a small German town. While serving as a country doctor, he became intensely interested in the cause of the disease anthrax.
The disease begins with symptoms similar to a cold and causes itching skin. Blisters or vesicles form which later black and swell. The bacteria may move into the blood and cause fever, shock, and eventually death the research he did was praised as brilliant even though he used the most basic of techniques and equipment.
Koch worked long hours and successfully isolated the bacterium that caused anthrax He used house mice to show how the disease moved through animals and speculated on the formation of a resistant form of the bacterium, an endospore.
Later he did special work on the endospores and demonstrated how they were able to survive in dead animals and in soil where they could serve as a source of infection for other animals.
He studied the anthrax bacterium in frogs and horses, and saw how the disease organisms became concentrated in the lymph sacs and spleen. This information led to a better understanding of how the lymph system functions to control disease-causing microbes in the body.
When Koch presented this information to the Royal Society of London, the praise and support he received was so great that he shifted his work from medicine to research.