Pasteur 'told lies about vaccines'

Louis Pasteur lied about a public trial of the anthrax vaccine that helped to make him famous, a historian claimed yesterday.

According to Gerald Geison, of Princeton University, the French scientist also acted unethically by using a rabies vaccine on a child that he claimed to have tested on hundreds of dogs.

In fact he had tried the vaccine on only a handful of animals, Professor Geison told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

'Pasteur would not have passed muster with our current ethical committees,' he said.

Professor Geison has examined Pasteur's 'microscopic' scribblings in more than 100 laboratory notebooks deposited at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and said he had found 'striking and sometimes astonishing discrepancies' between these and Pasteur's published science. Pasteur is best known for demonstrating the sterilising effect of pasteurisation, but is also remembered for his groundbreaking work on the anthrax and rabies vaccines.

The work helped him, and his Pasteur Institute in Paris, to become extremely wealthy. But at the time one of his colleagues, Emile Roux , refused to take part in Pasteur's rabies vaccine trial on a peasantfrom Alsace, Joseph Meister, who had been bitten by a rabid dog, because he felt Pasteur had carried out too few trials on animals to experiment on people.

Pasteur's notebooks show that on many occasions he claimed to have carried out more experiments than he had, and sometimes reversed the order in which he had conducted experiments when he came to write them up.

Professor Geison said historians had uncovered discrepancies between the notebooks and published papers of other leading scientists, including Michael Faraday, Claude Bernard, a leading 19th-century physiologist, and Hans Krebs, the Nobel laureate who worked on energy transformation in biological cells.

But Pasteur's conduct over his anthrax trial was harder to excuse, he said. Pasteur had claimed to be using a vaccine weakened by exposure to oxygen. In fact the successful trial involved a vaccine weakened by an antiseptic, an approach developed by a veterinarian, who remained in obscurity.

Pasteur apparently decided to lie after boasting so often that he could make a successful oxygen- attentuated vaccine that he was eventually challenged to carry out a demonstration. He did succeed in perfecting his original vaccine, but not until after the public trial.

Professor Geison said he did not wish to tarnish Pasteur's reputation. He said the public harboured a misconception that science proceeded by a set of rules. In fact, the process was often carried out in haste, with the 'exaggeration and tidying up' of results.

Practices some people might see as scientific misconduct were often a necessary part of the 'risk-taking and boldness' that produced truly great science, he said. 'It is not part of my purpose to deny Pasteur's greatness as a scientist. Science is not a simple- minded mechanical application of objective scientific method.'

Professor Geison was forgiving in his final analysis: 'Once we know of Pasteur's deviations from currently correct scientific procedures, do we really wish he had behaved otherwise?'

Suggested Topics
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst/ Project Manager - Financial Services

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...

Year 3 Teacher - Winsford

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 3 Teachers needed in Winsford We ...

Behaviour support worker

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Behavioural support worker Pupil r...

Year 5/6 Teacher - Winsford

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 5/6 Teachers needed in WinsfordWe...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits