Friday, September 27, 2013

The boy who got the first vaccine.

A young mother once bought to Louis Pasteur, her son, so mangled by a rabid dog that he could barely walk. The mother was in distress because those days the only result of such a bite would be certain death. Louis Pasteur (after whom pasteurisation is named) treated the boy with a rabies vaccine tested only on animals. Pasteur wasn’t a licensed doctor, and he administered the vaccine despite the threat of criminal prosecution if he failed. The vaccine worked and the boy lived. You may have heard this story before, but what happened next is probably much more moving. The boy’s name was Joseph Meister, and he grew up and became the groundskeeper for the Pasteur Institute. Poignantly, he was still the groundskeeper in 1940 when the German soldiers overran France. A company of German soldiers arrived at the Institute and one officer demanded that Meister, the man with the keys, open up Pasteur’s crypt so that he, the officer could view Pasteur’s bones. Meister committed suicide rather then be complicit in this act. 

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