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How Pasteur’s Artistic Insight Changed Chemistry


If you’ve ever had milk, you’re probably familiar with the work of Louis Pasteur, the 19th-century French chemist and biologist. He prevented diseases, developing a process — widely known as pasteurization — for killing microbes in milk and wine. He also created vaccines for rabies and anthrax. And his ideas led to the acceptance of germ theory, the notion that tiny organisms caused diseases like cholera. Pasteur even helped us brew better beer.

“He’s considered the benefactor of mankind,” said Joseph Gal, a chemist and professor emeritus at the University of Colorado.

But before all that, Pasteur was an artist. And without his early creative explorations, he may not have made one of his most monumental, but least talked about, discoveries in science, one with far-reaching implications.

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