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A History of Science, Volume 5(of 5) by Williams

The Pasteur Institute is in effect a school of bacteriology


If one chances to come to the institute in the later hours of the morning he will perhaps be surprised to find a motley company of men, women, and children, apparently of many nationalities and from varied walks of life, gathered about one of the entrances or sauntering near by. These are the most direct beneficiaries of the institution, the unfortunate victims of the bites of rabid dogs, who have come here to take the treatment which alone can give them immunity from the terrible consequences of that mishap. Rabies, or hydrophobia as it is more commonly termed with us, is well known to be an absolutely fatal malady, there being no case on record of recovery from the disease once fully established. Even the treatment which Pasteur developed and which is here carried out cannot avail to save the victim in whom the active symptoms of the malady are actually present. But, fortunately, the disease is peculiarly slow in its onset, sometimes not manifesting itself for weeks or months after the inoculation; and this delay, which formerly was to the patient a period of fearful doubt and anxiety, now suffices, happily, for the application of the protective inoculations which enable the person otherwise doomed to resist the poison and go unscathed. Thus it is that the persons who gather here each day to the number of fifty, or even one hundred, have the appearance of and the feelings of average health, though a

large proportion of them bear in their systems, on arrival, the germs of a disease that would bring them speedily to a terrible end were it not that the genius of Pasteur had found a way to give them immunity. The number of persons who have been given the anti-rabic treatment here is more than twenty-five thousand. To have given safety to such an army of unfortunates is, indeed, enough merit for any single institution; but it must not be supposed that this record is by any manner of means the full measure of the benefits which the Institut Pasteur has conferred upon humanity. In point of fact, the preparation and use of the anti-rabic serum is only one of many aims of the institution, whose full scope is as wide as the entire domain of contagious diseases. Pasteur's personal discoveries had demonstrated the relation of certain lower organisms, notably the bacteria, to the contagious diseases, and had shown the possibility of giving immunity from certain of these diseases through the use of cultures of the noxious bacteria themselves. He believed that these methods could be extended and developed until all the contagious diseases, which hitherto have accounted for so startling a proportion of all deaths, were brought within the control of medical science. His deepest thought in founding the institute was to supply a tangible seat of operations for this attempted conquest, where the brilliant assistants he had gathered about him, and their successors in turn, might take a share in this great struggle, unhampered by the material drawbacks which so often confront the would-be worker in science.

He desired also that the institution should be a centre of education along the lines of its work, adding thus an indirect influence to the score of its direct achievements. In both these regards the institution has been and continues to be worthy of its founder. The Pasteur Institute is in effect a school of bacteriology, where each of the professors is at once a teacher and a brilliant investigator. The chief courses of instruction consist of two series each year of lectures and laboratory demonstrations on topics within the field of bacteriology. These courses, at which all the regular staff of the institution assist more or less, are open to physicians and other competent students regardless of nationality, and they suffice to inculcate the principles of bacteriology to a large band of seekers each year.

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