Did you know that Louis Pasteur was an artist?
He was born in 1822 in Dôle north of Lyon, France. As a young boy he enjoyed drawing and later became a portrait painter. The French art critic Durand Gréville remarked: ‘If he had wanted to be, he would have held his own among the painters and-who knows-become a very great painter’. Pasteur wanted a career as an artist but his father explained to him that most artists don’t receive enough income for a decent life. Pasteur however, pursued a career in science and was responsible for many important discoveries. As a student in 1845 for his licencé ès science, he discovered that natural tartrate, an acid formed during grape fermentation during wine making, existed in a ‘right-handed’ and ‘left-handed’ form (mirror-images: chirality). Right-handed and left-handed versions may have widely varying functions. The drug Thalidomide is a good example as the teratogenicity is only associated with the S enantiomer. Gal has suggested that prior experience as a lithographer may have influenced Pasteur. In lithography a drawing is etched onto limestone with wax or oil and acid. Before a lithograph is printed, a dye is applied to make the image visible. Then white paper is pressed on top of the etching to produce a print (a mirror image) of the original drawing.
Pasteur made many contributions to medicine notably vaccination. Throughout his life he was a major supporter of the arts.
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