Friday, June 27, 2008

Louis Pasteur: a certain vintage.

Just reading the introduction to LOUIS PASTEUR by Patrice Debré (translated by Elborg Forster (great name!)). According to some accounts Pasteur was a cantankerous man who loved to get one over on his contemporaries. Debré, however, clearly thought Pasteur was great.

I think all good biographers should fall in love a little with their subjects - only that way can they hope to get under their skin and see how they worked. Debré relishes his emotional response to the life of the man, and his descriptions of how he feels are engaging.

He worked on the book in a tiny village called Vernon-sur-Brenne. At the end of the preface he describes walking around the village deep in thought. At one stage he finds himself automatically deciphering the name of the street sign in front of him: 'rue Pasteur'. This, he says, is something to think about. He then examines the names of the other connecting streets: Victor Hugo and Aristide Briand. A splendid academy, he says.

I like the way he ends: 'Continuing on my way, I leave Pasteur in this honorable company. At the village gates, the vineyards have already turned purple.'

Very French...which takes me neatly to the glass of cold 'appellation côtes de Luberon contrôllée' that is waiting for me downstairs.


Blogger stu said...

Pasteur was certainly great, but sometimes I think the most interesting angle was his great rivalry with Koch. It nicely mirrored the events around the Franco-Prussian War.

Fri Jun 27, 10:25:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

...or was actually caused by the Franco-Prussion War, perhaps, do you think. Stu? Such a shame it got in the way of the science - or maybe the competition spurred them on to make greater advances, maybe?

Yes, an interesting part of the story, as you say.

Sat Jun 28, 12:33:00 am  

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