Louis Pasteur Timeline: The Life of Louis Pasteur

Timeline of Historical Events Involving Louis Pasteur


  • Louis Pasteur born at 2 a.m. in Dole (Jura), as the third child of Jean-Joseph Pasteur and Jeanne-Etiennette Roqui.


  • Louis Pasteur is baptized.


  • Birth of Louis Pasteur’s sister, Josephine.


  • The Pasteur family moves to Marnoz (Jura), where Jean-Joseph rents a tannery.
  • Birth of Clermont-Ferrand of Marie Laurent, Pasteur’s future wife.
  • Birth of Louis Pasteur’s sister, Emilie.


  • The Pasteur family moves to a tannery on the banks of the Cuisance River at Arbois. Jean-Joseph buys this property in 1833 and lives there until his death.
  • Louis Pasteur draws his first pastel at the age of 13 (Dessin et Pastels).


  • Emilie contracts encephalitis, which leaves her permanently impaired.
  • Student at École Primaire, Arbois.


  • Pasteur enters primary school (Student at Collège d’Arbois).
  • Pasteur witnesses the treatment of several victims of bites by rabid animals; the epidemic causes sixteen deaths in the region, four of them in the immediate vicinity of Arbois.


  • Pasteur leaves for Paris in the company of his friend Jules Vercel; he is to continue his schooling as a boarding student at the Institution Barbet (3, impasse des Feuillantines). Suffering from extreme homesickness, he returns to Arbois by mid-November. On his return he executes his first pastels.


  • Pasteur becomes a student in the final class of the collège royal of Besançon. Here he meets Jules Marcou and Charles Chappuis, son of hte notary of Saint-Vit.
  • Student at Collège Royal de Besançon.


  • Pasteur receive his bachelor of arts (Baccalaureate) degree at Besançon.
  • Pasteur is appointed teaching assistant at the Besançon collège. At the same time, he pursues his studies of special mathematics.


  • Pasteur fails the examination for the bachelor of science degree. He enrolls for a second year of special mathematics at Besançon.


  • Pasteur receives his bachelor of science (Baccalaureate) degree at Dijon, despite a mediocre grade in chemistry.
  • He qualifies for the competitive entrance examination to the Ecole normale supérieure, but since he is ranked fifteenth of twenty-two candidates, he prefers not to take the oral examination and to put off a second attempt until the following year.
  • He pursues his studies in Paris, residing once again at the Institution Barbet. At the same time he takes courses at the Lycée Saint-Louis and attends lectures of Jean-Baptiste Dumas at the Sorbonne.


  • Pasteur receives a first prize for physics at the lycée Saint-Louis and is ranked fourth in the entrance competition for the Ecole normale supérieure.
  • Pasteur attends Jean Baptiste Dumas‘ chemistry courses at the Sorbonne.


  • Pasteur enters the Ecole Normale.
  • Biot presents to the Académie des sciences Mitscherlich’s note on the sodium and ammonia paratartrates and tartrates that would be the starting point of Pasteur’s career.


  • Pasteur obtains the degree of licencié ès sciences (M.S.). He attracts the attention of Balard, who has just been appointed professor at the Ecole normale supérieure.


  • Pasteur places third in the agrégationin physical science. He is appointed professor of physics t the collège of Tournon (Ardèche), but Balard chooses him as his graduate assistant (préparateur) for his chemistry courses. Pasteur will work in his laboratory until 1848.
  • Pasteur meets Auguste Laurent, with whom he begins to study crystallography in the laboratory of his professor Antoine Jérome Balard.


  • Pasteur defends his theses in chemistry and physics before the Faculty of Sciences in Paris. His physics thesis: A study of the phenomena related to the rotational polarization of liquids. Application of the rotational polarization of liquids to the resolution of several problems in chemistry. His chemistry thesis: Research on the saturation capacity of arsenius acid. Studies on the potassium-, sodium-, and ammonia-arsenites.


  • Pasteur’s first report to the Académie des sciences (presented by Balard): On the relation that can exist between crystalline form and chemical composition, and on the cause of rotational polarization. This is Pasteur’s first major discovery: molecular asymmetry.
  • Pasteur’s mother dies at Arbois.
  • Pasteur is appointed professor of physics at the lycée of Dijon.
  • He is appointed acting professor of chemistry at Stasbourg University.


  • Pasteur arrives in Strasbourg.
  • Second report on molecular dissymmetry to the Académie des sciences.
  • Pasteur marries Marie Laurent, daughter of the rector of Strasbourg University.
  • Pasteur begins a 3 year fundamental study of tartaric and partartaric acids.


  • Birth of Pasteur’s first child, Jeanne.
  • Note to the Académie des sciences on his work of 1849 (the composition of racemic acid).
  • Death (at age 25) of Pasteur’s sister Joséphine.


  • The Pharmaceutical Society announces a competition and offers a prize to the person who will establish whether tartaric acids containing fully formed racemic acid exist and who will provide a precise account of the modalities by which tartaric acid changes into racemic acid.
  • Communication of a paper on aspartic and malic acids to the Académie des sciences.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s son Jean-Baptiste.


  • Pasteur meets Mitscherlich and Rose in Biot’s laboratory at the Collège de France.
  • Journey to Germany. Pasteur visits Mr. Fikentscher’s factory at Zwickau (Saxony).
  • Pasteur arrives in Vienna and visits several tartaric acid factories in Austria.
  • Arrival in Prague.
  • Return to Strasbourg.
  • Pasteur is appointed to the chair of chemistry in the Faculty of Science of Strasbourg University.


  • Note to the Académie des sciences on the origin of racemic acid.
  • Death of Pasteur’s sister Emilie at the Ursuline convent in Voiteur (Jura).
  • Pasteur informs Biot that he is able to transform tartaric acid into racemic acid.
  • Biot communicates this discovery to the Académie des sciences.
  • Pasteur is made a chevalier in the imperial order of hte Légion d’honneur.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s daughter Cécile.
  • Pasteur receives the prize of the Pharmaceutical Society for the synthesis of racemic acid (1,500 francs).


  • Report to the Académie des sciences on dimorphism in optically active substances.
  • Pasteur takes up his functions as professor of chemistry and dean of the new Faculty of Science at Lille.


  • Communication of a paper on amyl alcohol to the Académie des sciences.
  • Pasteur publishes his work titled, Mémoire sur l’alcool amylique on August 20.
  • Begins his research on fermentation.


  • Publication on the isomorphism of active and inactive substances exposed to polarized light.
  • First meeting with E. Bigo, an industrialist of Lille, who asks Pasteur’s advice concerning the prodeuction of beet root alcohol. Beginning of the work on fermentation.
  • Pasteur becomes a candidate for the Académie des sciences, where a vacancy has occurred in the section of mineralogy and geology.
  • Pasteur receives the Rumford Medal of the London Royal Society for his work in crystallography.


  • Pasteur loses the election to the Académie des sciences to Gabriel Delafosse.
  • Publication of a paper on the so-called lactic fermentation by the Society for the Advancement of Science of Lille. This publication can be considered the birth certificate of microbiology.
  • Pasteur is appointed administrator and director of scientific studies at the École Normal Supérieure in Paris.
  • Presentation of a second paper (on alcoholic fermentation) to the Académie des sciences.


  • Pasteur installs a laboratory in the attic of the Ecole normale in Paris.
  • Paper on the fermentation of tartaric acid.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s daughter Marie-Louise.
  • Pasteur, vacationing at Arbois, examines diseased wines and observes the presence of germs analogous to those found in lactic fermentation.
  • Félix-Archimède Pouchet, director of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle of Rouen, publishes his Note on the plant and animal proto-organisms born spontaneously in artificial air or oxygen gas, which becomes the starting point for Pasteur’s work on spontaneous generation.
  • Pasteur presents a paper titled, Mémoire sur la fermentation appelée lactique (on lactic fermentation) to the Académie des sciences.


  • Pasteur’s letter to Pouchet concerning spontaneous generation.
  • Pasteur’s daughter Jeanne (age 9) dies at Arbois.
  • Pasteur receives the prize for experimental physiology of the Académie des sciences.


  • Publication of his 43 page paper titled, Mémoire sur la fermentation alcoolique (on alcoholic fermentation).
  • Pasteur presents the first detailed report on his research on molecular dissymmetry to the Chemical Society of Paris.
  • Pasteur obtains the prize in experimental physiology for hte year 1859 (prix Montyon) given by the Académie des sciences following the report submitted by Claude Bernard.
  • Second report on molecular dissymmetry to the Chemical Society of Paris.
  • Air samples collected at Arbois for the study of spontaneous generation.


  • Discovery of anaerobic (oxygen-deprived) life: butyric acid fermentation.
  • Lecture on the doctrine of spontaneous generation to the Chemical Society of Paris.
  • Lecture to the Chemical Society of Paris titled, On Organized Corpuscles That Exist in the Atmosphere; Examination of the Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.
  • Publication in the bulletin of the Chemical Society of the complete set of Pasteur’s findings on acetic fermentation (vinegar).
  • Pasteur receives the Jecker Prize (Prix Jecker) of the Académie des sciences for his work on spontaneous generation (report submitted by E. Chevreuil).


  • Death of Biot.
  • Paper on the mycodermas presented to the Académie des sciences. Role of these organisms in acetic fermentation explained.
  • Paper on the industrial process for vinegar production presented to the Académie des sciences.
  • Pasteur receives the Prix Alhumbert for his research on spontaneous generation (report submitted by C. Bernard).
  • Pasteur, along with Claude Bernard, completes the world’s first pasteurization test.
  • Pasteur is elected to the Académie des sciences (mineralogy section).


  • Jule Raulin is appointed Pasteur’s graduate assistant (agrégé-préparateur) in the laboratory of the rue d’Ulm.
  • Napoleon III asks Pasteur to study wine and its diseases.
  • Paper to the Académie des sciences on the destruction of plant and animal matter after death.
  • Paper to the Académie des sciences on putrefaction.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s daughter Camille.
  • Pasteur is appointed professor of geology, physics, and chemistry at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris (a position he will keep until 1867).
  • Paper on the role of atmospheric oxygen in vinification.


  • First class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
  • Lecture given in the series of “Scientific Evenings at the Sorbonne” on spontaneous generation.
  • Continued debate with Pouchet, Joly, and Musset.
  • Publishes paper, On Acetic Fermentation.
  • Lectures at the Sorbonne: Spontaneous Generation.
  • Paper on the diseases of wine delivered to the Académie des sciences.
  • Pasteur sets up a laboratory for the study of wine at Arbois.


  • Paper on a practical process for preserving and improving wine presented to the Académie des sciences. Beginning of pasteurization.
  • Pasteur leaves for Alès, where he is to study the diseases of the silkworm.
  • Jean-Joseph Pasteur (father) dies at Arbois at the age of 74.
  • Paper on the heating of wine.
  • Camille Pasteur (daughter) dies at the age of two.
  • First observations on the diseases of silkworms.
  • Outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Paris. Pasteur is appointed to a commission charged with investigating the disease.
  • Pasteur is invited to the Palace of Compiègne; has personal contact with Napleon III and Eugénie.


  • Cécile Pasteur dies at Chambéry at age twelve.
  • Paper on the diseases of the silkworm.
  • Publication of the Etudes sur le vin (Studies on Wine), which he dedicates to Emperor Napoleon III. Controversy over the priority of the techniques for heating wine.
  • Pasteur publishes an article on the scientific achievements of Claude Bernard in the Moniteur.
  • A second paper on the silkworm.


  • Lister reports on chemical asepsis.
  • Pasteur studies flacherieat Alès.
  • Pasteur receives one of the Grand Prizes of the World’s Fair for his work on vinous fermentation.
  • Pasteur expells the student Lallier from the Ecole normal (in connection with the “Affaire Sainte-Beuve”).
  • Unrest at the Ecole normale. Closing of the school. Resignation of the directors, including Pasteur.
  • Pasteur requests and obtains the creation of a laboratory for physiological chemistry at the Ecole normale. At the same time, he succeeds Balard in the chair of organic chemistry at the Sorbonne.
    Lecture on vinegar making given at Orleans to the manufacturers of the region.
  • Pasteur resigns his positionat the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.


  • Pasteur receives a degree of Doctor of Medicine honoris causa from Bonn University.
  • Publication of the pamphlet Le Budget de la science.
  • Publication of the Etudes sur le vinaigre (Studies on Vinegar).
  • Continuation of the work on the diseases of silkworm at Alès.
  • Pasteur is promoted to commander of the Légion d’honneur.
  • Pasteur suffers a first stroke.


  • Research on the diseases of the silkworm is resumed at Alès and Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort. Continues research in the Gard region and then at the Villa Vicentina in Austria.
  • Debate on the heating of wine with Vergnette-Lamotte.
  • Beginning of Pasteur’s stay at VIlla Vicentina near Trieste, an imperial estate where he is to run an experimental silkworm farm at the request of Napoleon III.
  • Report on the teaching of science in France.


  • Publication of the Etudes sur la maladie des vers à soie (Studies of Silkworm Diseases).
  • Pasteur leaves the Tyrol.
  • Returns to France via Vienna, Munich (interview with Liebig), and Stuttgart.
  • Stay at Strasbourg.
  • Pasteur is appointed senator of the Empire, but the decree is never promulgated because of the war.
  • Pasteur leaves Paris for Arbois.


  • After learning of the bombardment of the Muséum of Paris by the Prussians, Pasteur, who is living in Arbois, returns his diploma of doctor honoris causa to Bonn University.
  • Pasteur travels from Arbois to Pontarlier in search of his son Jean-Baptiste, a corporal in Bourbaki’s army.
  • Stays at Genva, then Lyon.
  • Stay at Clermon-Ferrand with Duclaux. Visit to the Kuhn brewery at Chamalières. First research about beer.
  • Pasteur begins his research on fermentation of beer with Émile Duclaux in Clermont Ferrand.
  • Pasteur takes out a patent for a special beer-making process.
  • Pasteur travels to London to pursue his study of beer at the great English breweries. He meets Tyndall, who mentions Lister to him.


  • Dispute with Frémy on the origin of the ferments.
  • Renewed dispute with Vergnette-Lamotte.
  • Pasteur applies for early retirement as professor at the Sorbonne.


  • Pasteur is elected to the Académie de médicine.
  • Pasteur is made commander in the Brazilian Order of the Rose.
  • Having spent time at the Tourtel Brewery at Tantonville (Meurthe-et-Moselle), Pasteur makes public a new process that prevents the alteration of beer.


  • First letters between Lister and Pasteur.
  • The National Assembly votes to grant Pasteur a National Reward (committee headed by Paul Bert).
  • Pasteur speaks at the award ceremony at the lycée of Arbois.
  • Jean-Baptiste Pasteur marries Jeanne Boutroux.
  • The Royal Society of London awards its Copley medal to Pasteur for his work on fermentation.


  • Installation of a laboraty for the study of fermentation at Arbois.
  • Charles Chamberland joins the laboratory in the rue d’Ulm.


  • Pasteur loses the election for the senate seat.
  • Correspondence with Tyndall about spontaneous generation.
  • Publication of the Etudes sur la bière (Studies on Beer).
  • Paper about the fermentation of urine.
  • Pasteur represents France at the International Silk-Grower’s Convention in Milan.


  • Dispute with Colin over the virulence of anthrax blood.
  • Paper on anthrax presented to the Académie des sciences.
  • Paper on septicemia.
  • Discovers the vibrion septique.


  • Death of Claude Bernard.
  • Debates with Colin on the etiology of anthrax.
  • Journey to Italy (Milan, Lago Maggiore, Lugano).
  • Note on chicken cholera.
  • Experiments with anthrax conducted at Jules Maunory’s farm near Chartres with the help of the veterinarian Vinsot.
  • Pasteur is promoted to grand officer of the Légion d’honneur.
  • Pasteur refutes a posthumous article of Claude Bernard on alcoholic fermenation.
  • Dispute with Berthelot
  • Emile Roux joins Pasteur’s laboratory.
  • Research on gangrene, septicemia, and childbirth (puerperal) fever.
  • Publishes Germ Theory and Its Application to Medicine and Surgery.


  • Debate on the plague in the Near East.
  • Paper on puerperal septicemia.
  • Discovery of a vaccine obtained from attenuated cultures.
  • Debates with Colin on the etiology of anthrax.
  • Marie-Louise Pasteur (daughter) marries René Vallery-Radot.


  • Pasteur is appointed to the Central Society of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Paper on virulent diseases, in which the principle of virus vaccines is enunciated for the first time.
  • Publishes the paper On the Attenuation of the Chicken Cholera Virus.
  • Pasteur successfully isolates the bacterium pneumococcus.
  • Paper in which the germ theory is extended to the etiology of boils, osteomyelitis, and puerperal fever.
  • Paper on the role of earthworms in the propogation of anthrax.
  • Death of Pasteur’s sister Virginie Vichot.
  • Pasteur threatens to resign from the Académie de médicine.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s granddaughter Camille Vallery-Radot.
  • At the Académie de médicine, Jule Guérin challenges Pasteur to a duel.
  • Pasteur begins his research on rabies.


  • Paper on the attenuation of viruses followed by renewed virulence.
  • Roux inoculates rabies into dogs by means of trepanation.
  • Experiments with anthrax vaccination at the farm of Pouilly-le-Fort near Melun.
  • Death of Emile Littré.
  • Reports on the experiments of Pouilly-le-Fort to the Académie française left vacant by the death of Littré.
  • Death of Sainte-Claire Deville.
  • Pasteur receives the Grand-Croix of the Légion d’honneur.
  • Paper on the virus vaccines (for chicken cholera and anthrax) presented at the International Congress of Medicine in London.
  • Studies swine erysipelas in Bollène.
  • Pasteur journeys to Bordeaux to study yellow fever.
  • Pasteur is elected to Littré’s seat at the Académie française.


  • Pasteur is received at the Académie française; speeches by Ernest Renan and Pasteur.
  • Antianthrax vaccinames at Nîmex.
  • Paper on the attenuation of viruses to the Public Health Congress at Geneva. Dispute with Robert Koch.
  • Pasteur’s nephew Adrien Loir goes to work in the laboratory of the rue d’Ulm as assistant préparateur.
  • Paper on cattle pleuropneumonia.
  • Pasteur studies swine erysipelas at Bollène.
  • Open letter to Robert Koch (published in January 1883).
  • First dog made refractory to rabies.


  • Discovery of the agent of swine erysipelas.
  • Disputes with Michel Peter.
  • Response to the criticism of anthrax vaccination voiced by the vommittee of the Veterinary School of Turin.
  • Second National Reward granted to Pasteur (committee headed by P. Bert and J. Méline).
  • Pasteur speaks at Dole on the occasion of the placing of a commemorative plaque on the house of his birth.
  • Pasteur dispatches Roux, Straus, Nocard, and Thuillier to Egypt for the purpose of studying cholera.
  • Louis Thullier dies in Alexandria.
  • First vaccination against swine erysipelas with an attenuated virus (developed in collaboration with L. Thullier).


  • Publication of the first biography of Pasteur: Histoire d’un savant par un ignorant, written (but not signed) by René Vallery-Radot.
  • Paper on rabies. Experimentation with the two-necked flask.
  • Death of Jean-Baptiste Dumas.
  • Pasteur travels to Edinburgh for the tricentennial of the University.
  • Additional paper on rabies.
  • Experiments with refractory dogs for the rabies commission.
  • Straus and Roux dispatched to Toulon to conduct research on an outbreak of cholera, whose vibrio has been discovered by Koch.
  • Paper to the International Congress of Medicine in Copenhagen on the general principle of vaccination and preventive methods against rabies in humans.
  • A laboratory for the study of rabies, complete with animal pens, is set up at Villeneuve-l’Etang in the park of Saint-Cloud (village of Marnes-la-Coquette).
  • Letter of Pasteur to Pedro II of Brazil concerning the experimental use of the antirabies vaccine on humans.


  • First trials of the antirabies vaccine in humans.
  • Oversees the administration of the first vaccination against rabies given to a human, the young Joseph Meister.
  • Papers on the methods of preventing rabies after bites have occurred presented to the Académie des sciences and subsequently to the Académie de médicine.
  • Antirabies treatment administered to Louise Pelletier.
  • Death of Louise Pelletier.
  • Joseph Bertrand delivers his inaugural address at the Académie française (eulogy of Jean-Baptiste Dumas).
  • Antirabies treatment administered to four American children sent from New Jersey.


  • First donations destined for the creation of an antirabies institute.
  • Official opening of a subscription for the founding of an antirabies vaccination institute.
  • Antirabies vaccination of nineteen Russians who have come from Smolensk.
  • Fundraising gala for the Institut Pasteur at the Trocadéro Palace organized by the “Scientia” Society.
  • Birth of Pasteur’s grandson Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot.
  • Gamaleïa and Metchnikoff set up an antirabies laboratory in Odessa.
  • Alexandre Yersin becomes Roux’s assistant.
  • Antirabies treatment of Jules Rouyer.
  • Jules Rouyer dies. The child’s father sues; the case is dismissed by the court in January 1887.
  • Pasteur leaves Paris for a long stay at Villa Bischoffsheim in Bordighera (Italy).


  • First issue of the Annales d l’Institut Pasteur, a new review edited by Duclaux. Lively controversies over rabies carried out by Peter and certain foreign journalists.
  • Earthquake on the French and Italian Riviera. Pasteur leaves Bordighera and goes to Arbois, where he stays until April.
  • Grancher founds the Bulletin médical. Purchase of a building site in the rue Dutot (20th arrondissement of Paris), where the Institut Pasteur is to be built.
  • Establishtment of the Paris Institut Pasteur and official statutes.
  • Pasteur elected perpetual secretary of the Académie des sciences.
  • Second attack of paralysis, followe by recovery.
  • Pasteur’s letter to the editor of Le Temps describing a procedure for the massive destruction of rabbits in response to an inquiry of the government of New South Wales.
  • Successful completion of the experimental infection of rabbits with the chicken cholera microbe on the property of the widow at Pommery at Reims.


  • Loir is sent to Australia to head a program of rabbit eradication.
  • Inauguration of the Paris Institut Pasteur. (November 14)


  • Pasteur speaks at the enveiling of a statue of Jean-Baptiste Dumas at Alès; one of that town’s streets is name for Pasteur.
  • L. Bonnat Painting of Louis Pasteur and his granddaughter is revealed at L’ Exposition Universelle.
  • Louis Pasteur’s pupil Paul Vuillemin coins the term “antibiotic” from the word antibiosis: process by which life could be used to destroy life


  • Albert Calmette becomes Roux’s assistant at the Institut Pasteur.


  • Founding of an Institut Pasteur at Saigon under the direction of Albert Calmette.


  • A village in Algeria (near Constantine) is given Pasteur’s name.
  • Pasteur’s jubilee celebrated at the Sorbonne.


  • Creation of an Institut Pasteur at Tunis.


  • Address given at Lille on the occasion of a special meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Science.
  • Yersin identifies the plague bacillus at Hong Kong.
  • Pasteur’s last stay at Arbois.
  • Pasteur suffers another stroke, which weakens him greatly.


  • Reception for the students of the Ecole normale at the Institut Pasteur to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the school.
  • Pasteur refuses to accept the Prussian Order of Merit.
  • Pasteur leaves the Institut and is driven to Villeneuve-l’Etang.
  • Pasteur dies September 28th at 4:20 P.M.
  • State funeral; mass at Notre-Dame of Paris.

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