Archive for March, 2012


Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

Vadier would definitively condemn Robespierre by displaying a letter from a Geneva Notary, which proposes a supernatural Constitution to Robespierre.  It is the end.  After a three-hour battle, the High Priest of the Supreme Being is dead, killed by ridicule.

A few days later, on 9 Thermidor 1794, he who had wanted to bring back the Golden Age, via terror and the scaffold, perishes on the scaffold, amid songs, dances and cries of joy.

The day after this day when the Revolution falls, Catherine Theot is taken to the Petite Force Prison, and from there to the Plessis.  Robespierre had been opposed to her being harmed, and she now risks being persecuted as one of the tyrant’s accomplices.  Inside her gaol, covered in wounds, the origin of which cannot be explained, the Sibyl of the Rue Contrescarpe continues to prophesy…  She had vaticinated in her first prison:

“A great blow will strike me on the Pantheon hill, in a house next to the Ecole de Droit.  It will announce my rejuvenation and my transformation into an Immortal!”

Her prophecy as to the last place of her detention would reveal itself to be exact.  And what “great blow” does she mean?  To the questioners and gaolers who mock her, she says:

“Yes, I am going to die!  But not on the scaffold like you hope!  I shall die of my own death and unhappiness!  When I die, you will see!…  The ground will tremble, and it will collapse everywhere!…”

On 31 August, the visionary, surrounded by her faithful, enters into agony.  She dies peacefully at half-past seven.  At this precise instant, a formidable detonation shakes the walls of the prison.  The ground begins to tremble and all of the windows in Paris shatter while the doors of the prison next to the Luxembourg open on their own.

After the fall of Robespierre, Catherine Theot, considered as one of his admirers, was arrested and taken to the Petite Force Prison.

For a reason which was never elucidated, the Grenelle ammunition dump had just exploded, killing hundreds of people…

***

After this, the Mother of God’s gaolers took her prophecies seriously and, mad with terror, installed her body on a big parade bed, covered with flowers and surrounded by a thousand candles.  Of course, when they learned that it was the central ammunition dump which had exploded and that the Illuminated woman had nothing to do with it, they threw her body into the common grave and covered it with lime…

***

Robespierre had never seen her and didn’t even know that she existed.  The Atheist Party simply used her to ridicule Robespierre’s religious ideas.

***

This former pupil of the Oratorians, who owed to the Bishop of Arras his Bursary of Collegian and Student, lived right to the end surrounded by priests.  A fervent disciple of Rousseau, whom he had perhaps met in his Ermenonville retreat, he attacked Voltaire in all of his speeches, which caused great scandal among the Atheists.  At the Convention tribunal, where he purposely smattered his interventions with many resounding :  “May it not displease God!”  he said:

“To attack the cult, is to attack the morality of the People!”

Just before and at the beginning of the Revolution, the good God was never in better health.  When the churches start to be closed, people turn in frenzy to all forms of mysticism.  The most naive, or the craziest, revelations of somnambulists and necromancians, tarots and horoscopes, those of Mademoiselle Lenormand in particular, who has among her clients Saint-Just, Barere and Robespierre himself, who faints every time that he touches the Nine of Spades.  When in 1793, Saint Genevieve’s shrine is profaned, the Sans-Culottes of the neighbourhood want to raise in the church an “altar, where pious vestals would maintain a perpetual fire”.  In the families, Chaumette’s portrait placed between two candles is adored, and Petion, the President of the Convention, has his sect which finds him “very superior to Our Lord Jesus-Christ”.

At the precise moment that Catherine Theot breathed her last breath, the Grenelle ammunition dump exploded.

In the good aristocratic society, things are not much better.  The Duchess de Bourbon welcomes all that Paris counts in somnambulists, wizards, cabbalists and augures.  Every day, the prophet Elie holds conferences which are followed by a lot of people in the Tuileries garden.  People believe that they are followed by their guardian angel or persecuted by their guardian devil and those who do not give themselves up to magnetism, follow the prophetess Jeanne Labrousse, as far as Rome, where she goes to convert the Pope.

Catherine Theot also has success, as we have seen, with an imagination even more fertile than the others.  The Police find in her home a recipe for making a magical sword which renders invincible, but above all numerous rough copies of letters, all addressed to her “dear son” Robespierre in which she gratifies him with the name of “Guide des milices celestes” and “angel of the Lord”.

***

The only element which is in any way compromising for the Incorruptible, is the presence in the Theot’s home of Dom Gerle, the man in the white coat.

This strange person, a former Deputy of the Constituante, who had launched the visionary Suzanne Labrousse in Paris, would furnish Vadier with the only political element of his report.  It is a letter from Robespierre to the former Chartreux, in which he guarantees his patriotism and his revolutionary convictions and gives him as well “une carte de Surete”, a precious talisman, without which the slightest movement inside Paris can end at the Conciergerie.

***

In the Summer of 1794, anything was good for bringing down the Angel of Death who was only hanging on by public pressure.  The absolute Reign of Terror had arrived and anybody in France could be arrested at night, judged at noon and guillotined at four o’clock in the afternoon, without even having opened his or her mouth.  Atrocious times, when the Deputies didn’t dare sleep in their beds, continually changed places in the chamber during a sitting, spent their day running around in the streets and slipping into buildings with two entrances, to uncover spies.  Barras, in his Memoires, recounts that a Deputy, drunk with fatigue, was at his place, his forehead resting on his hand.  Suddenly he is seen to jump on his seat as if stung by a scorpion.  Simply because the Dictator had stared at him.  Trembling, decomposed, he turns to one of his colleagues and stammers:

“He’s going to believe that I’m thinking something!”

***

Inside, as well as outside, Robespierre had acquired immense prestige, to the point that he personified, all on his own, the Revolution.  And the Terror.  It was said at the Convention:

“If Robespierre asks for blood, blood will flow;  if he doesn’t, no-one else will dare ask for it!”

Women in particular added to it.  Widow Jaquin from Nantes, endowed with 40,000 pounds of rent, writes to him:

“You are my supreme divinity, I see you as my tutelary angel”

The Municipalities write to him that they throw themselves at his feet and that they sing Te Deums in his honour…

***

Until his death in 1828, the former Conventionnel Vadier would not cease to repeat in his Brussels exile the story of Catherine Theot and what he had been able to do with it.  He said with his inimitable Ariege accent:

“Robespierre, I annihilated him, I sank him, I struck him down in one blow…  Can you imagine it?!  He was saying that Atheism is aristocratic!”

The implacable Voltairian, who had brought down a man whose power surpassed by a great deal that of the Sun-King [Louis XIV] himself, died piously on the day of the Pentecost in 1828 and his body was presented at the Sainte-Gudule Cathedral, where the high clergy assembled to celebrate a solemn service for the repose of his soul…

***

Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

A little while ago, at the bottom of the staircase, Senart had consulted his Police File for the last time.  In it, it is said that she, who is called “the Mother of God” by adepts that are more numerous every day, is 69 years old, that she is the daughter of a poor Norman labourer, hired on a daily basis, and that she was a servant for a very long time.  When, in her 50’s, she suddenly has her “Revelation”, she hurries to a merchant of “instruments of penitence” and invests the savings of a lifetime in an incredible collection of cilices, iron belts, bracelets “a picquais” and metallic garters, lined with horsehair.  At night she sleeps on a cross which is a veritable torture rack, also garnished with steel spikes.  Although completely illiterate, she starts to cathechise.  Not without success, since the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor de Beaumont, becomes worried and asks her in writing to tell him about the lights that she thinks to have received.  A letter from her Archbishop!  The little good sense which remains in Catherine Theot abandons her and here she is running around the streets, stirring up the passers-by, interrupting sermons and cornering predicators on their way out, to accuse them of being heretics…  One of them sues and the visionary finds herself for three years at the Salpetriere in the  non-dangerous mentally deranged sector.  She is then taken in by a dressmaker, who is just as mad as she is, and for ten years, living a retired life, the two good women will pass the time retouching their sulphurous visions…  When the revolutionary hurricane is unleashed, they re-surface and set up their mirage offices on the Sainte-Genevievre mountain, where we now find them…  The Eclaireuse exclaims:

“Kneel, mortals!  You are going to receive the seven gifts of God!”

The two sheep drop to their knees.  They are asked if they can read.  They reply “a little”.

L'hopital de la Salpetriere, where Catherine Theot was interned for three years in the "mystically mad" quarter.

The Theot passes behind Senart and seizes his head which she presses strongly.  He feels the elderly woman’s mouth touch his forehead, eyelids, the back of an ear and his chin twice.  The beautiful Eclaireuse demands:

“Your turn!”

A rough ordeal!  But as a zealous policeman, Senart obeys and embraces the old woman everywhere.  The Chanteuse then asks:

“Son and Mother, kiss each other on the mouth!”

There, heroism is needed, but on we go, for the Republic!

Heron is inflicted with the same touching and, as soon as he has finished, everyone enters into a trance, kneels, prays, and begins canticles.  A beautiful young woman keeps her mouth pressed against that of Catherine for long minutes.  She doesn’t even stop when the Colombe appears in a panic, crying out:

“We have been betrayed!  There are soldiers everywhere in the street!…  They are climbing the stairs!”

The man in the white riding cloak, a former Chartreux by the name of Dom Gerle, now defrocked, also a former member of the Assemblee constituante, wants to flee.  Heron points one of his guns on his face, while Senart, more dead than alive, finds the strength to open the window and call out:

“The Guard!  Help, Gendarmes!…”

A few instants later, a strange cortege goes down the Rue de l’Estrapade:  the “Mother of God”, her head wobbling, trots gently between two Gendarmes, followed by her flock of Illuminated surrounded by National Guards.

In front, walk the two sycophants, Heron radiant, rattling his artillery, Senart shifty, his head invisible under his bicorn.

They arrive in front of the former College Louis le Grand, transformed into a Police Room and a Prison.  In this corridor, less than fifteen years before, Robespierre, then a Law student, was ruminating his dreams of grandeur, sombre and solitary.  Vadier occupies a little office there, where the Accused will be interrogated soon.

He will learn that the Mother teaches that the Incorruptible is the new Messiah, the incarnation of the Supreme Being, sent to Earth to transform France into Paradise…

That’s all that he wants to know.

***

A few days later, it is the incredible Festival of the Supreme Being, the most astonishing day in the History of Paris. 

[see https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/robespierres-one-day-religion/ and https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/robespierres-one-day-religion-part-2/ and https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/robespierres-one-day-religion-part-3/ ]

On this day, the aim is to abolish two thousand years of christianism and go back to the great celebrations of Antiquity, with Liberty floats drawn by the People of Paris, the cremation of the Statue of Atheism, and the sermon by Robespierre, who is already no more than the fanatical priest of the great cult of Death.  However, while France is panting and agonizing in the blue shadow of the Machine, this day marks the pinnacle of the man who had concentrated into his hands more power than any other in France, before or after him.  It will precipitate him also toward a vertiginous and absurd end which would occur less than two months later.

***

At the Convention, eight days later, Barere explodes his bomb:  Robespierre was the disciple of an old, mad, mystical woman!  It is Catherine Theot, the Mother of God, who invented the Supreme Being and who persuaded the Incorruptible that he was the new Messiah!  To perfect the trap, Vadier gives it vaudeville colours.  He lets it be understood that Robespierre was effectively one of the sect’s Initiates and that he was the first to suck the chin of the old witch!

All of this is false, of course.  It is all just a diabolical machination, served by lucky coincidence.  The Convention doesn’t care.  On the benches of the famous long room of the Tuileries, the Deputies roll around with laughter, and an immense dream crumbles…

“Is it really true that you knew about the Theot’s doings, Comrade Citizen?  What did it feel like, to embrace the Mother of God on the mouth?…”

Stunned at first, Robespierre becomes indignant.  Lengthily, as usual, he confides to his colleagues his astonishement and his pain, before this indecent buffoonery.  Vadier retorts:

“What?  This female conspirator, who sacrifices to superstition and old idols, is only a ‘woman worthy of contempt’?”

Robespierre interrupts:

“I didn’t say that!  You must understand…”

The embarrassment of the man, who had so many times pulverised much more serious arguments, is an irreparable error.  He is booed, his speech will not be printed and sent to the departements.  The Incorruptible will fall back down onto his bench.  He knows what this failure means.  His white, feline face closes up a little more and he murmurs:

“I am finished!”

***

To be continued.

Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

If Robespierre was finally defeated, it was perhaps because of a woman, an obscure prophetess, whose name History has not even retained.  In 1793, the “enrages”, assembled around the bloody Hebert, resolved to put an end to the Church.  Their spokesman, Chaumette, a philanthropist, the inventor of a guillotine on wheels which greatly facilitated the choppers’ work, is seized with a veritable anti-Catholic frenzy.  In the cemeteries, he has the crosses replaced by statues of Sleep, since the soul cannot be immortal, and he asks the “swearing” bishops to throw away the mitre, crook and ring, and to proclaim:

“All the titles of the charlatanism are deposited at the People’s Tribunal, we are regenerated!”

In Notre-Dame’s choir, he has an immense mountain in cardboard constructed.  On its slopes, women with naked breasts suckle babies to make them good little soldiers of Liberty.  One would look in vain for an effigy of saints.  In their place, there is a monumental statue which represents the People, brandishing a club.  A temple of political philosophy replaces the main-altar.  One distinguishes there the busts of all of the Fathers of the Revolution…

And it’s the same thing, often more laughable, in the cathedrals of Bourges, Le Mans, Limoges, Pau and elsewhere, where prostitutes organize mad Bacchanalias.

The Festival of the Goddess Reason, which degenerated into an appalling Bacchanalia, was replaced, at Robespierre's request, by the Festival of the Supreme Being.

Robespierre has more taste and spirit than these people.  And a higher ambition.  He doesn’t want to extirpate religious sentiment from the hearts of the French.  But he wants them to embrace a new religion.  That they replace the adoration of the Church God by the cult of the Supreme Being, founded on reason and fraternity.

On 18 Floreal Year II, more prosaically 7 May 1794, he has voted by the Convention, where no-one dares to contradict him any more, the Act of the birth of a religion, of which, by divine right, it could be said, he will be the High Priest.  For  a little more than a month.  This is already much too much for the partisans of absolute atheism.  Of course Hebert has just been cut in two, but his friends, among the Jacobins and even in the Convention, are searching and agitating.  While Robespierre is establishing with the painter David and the poet Chenier the rites and canticles of the new religion, they are seeking how to knock this Being off its altars along with its infernal pontiff.  They search with the desperate obstination of those for whom the path from the tribunal to the blade is becoming shorter every day.  In the end, they will find what they are looking for…

This same day in May 1794, two men discretely climb the six storeys of a miserable-looking house in the Rue de la Contrescarpe.  They are secret agents, or rather Comite de Salut Public informers.  Their names are Heron and Senart, and they have been sent there by Vadier, a Montagnard Deputy who execrates Robespierre just as much as his divinity, and Barere, nicknamed “l’Anacreon de la guillotine”, because the sight of its well-filled basket inspires him to spout exquisite literary flowers.  As for the two spies, you might as well say that they are frankly scoundrels:  Heron is a former long-haul sailor whose men call him simply “le Chef”.  Perhaps he takes his authority from the fact that he never goes anywhere without a very complete artillery:  under his jacket he carries two espingoles, small pistols, and a second belt with other pistols of a more considerable calibre, plus a large dagger and a little tiny styletto.  His wife, a beautiful Cancalaise to whom he is very attached, cheats on him with a First Lieutenant of the Beauce Regiment and flees with 800,000 pounds, a fortune which must surely owe nothing to his sailor’s pay.  He has just introduced a request with his influent friends that has a good chance of coming to something:  that of having his wife guillotined very urgently…

Senart, on the other hand, is a scrupulous person.  The son of a Prosecutor of Chatellerault, he passes for noble and has even married a goddaughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.  Never does he ever assemble his military Commissions, which comb the provinces, without making them attend Mass first.  He is meticulous in everything:  elected Prosecutor of Tours, he establishes the guillotine there without delay “on a solid base in masonry”.

Heron advises his acolyte to look pious as he knocks twice, then three times, with one knuckle on the landing door.

After a fairly long moment, a servant shows her nose and asks if they have come for the Mother of God.  If so, they’ll have to wait, because she isn’t up yet.

It is eleven o’clock;  the two fellows take root in the dark, cramped entry.  Heron reminds Senart that he is supposed to have just come from the country.

Then, a man dressed in an immense white riding-coat and carrying a toque in petit-gris fur appears.  He raises an oil lamp toward the visitors’ faces and traces a sign of recognition on his forehead which Heron hastens to repeat.  Before he can say a word, the servant-girl reappears and says emphatically:

“Come!  Mortal men, towards immortality!  The Mother of God permits you to enter!”

She precedes them into a chamber which is fairly vast, but just as dark, where she lights a triple chandelier and arranges, on some low steps, three blue and red armchairs.  Then she says:

“Time advances!  The Mother of God is going to appear to receive her children!”

At this moment, a military man arrives carrying his bonnet under his arm, a long blade at his side, followed by a female citizen that the man with the toque greets as being “l’Eclaireuse”.  Another one comes from the rooms at the end and is called “la Chanteuse”, and again another, who is singularly beautiful and is called “la Colombe”.  The “Eclaireuse” rings a bell.

“Brothers, here is your Mother!”

The curtains of an alcove open and a tall, dry, diaphanous person appears.  Her head and hands are of phenomenal thinness and are shaking with senile trembling…

Senart, who has remained prudently behind, now counts a good ten people who are taking their places on stools and types of chaises longues.  Those present rush to kiss Catherine Theot’s slipper with fervour, crying out:

“Glory be to the Mother of God!”

In his corner, Senart is having trouble not to laugh.

A collation is served, but only for the prophetess.  Two pretty girls tenderly wipe her face and lips afterwards.  In a sour, broken voice, she then pronounces these words:

“Children of God, Your Mother is among you.  I am now going to purify the two profanes!…

To be continued.

Esquisse de deux amis

George Weaver from She Kept a Parrot, a WordPress blog that can be found in my Blogroll, wants me to translate a poem, Esquisse de deux amis, which won a prize in France.  It does not translate well into English.

Another poem of mine, which was originally attempted in English and abandoned because it sounded “mushy” to me, was re-written in French and came out very well because French suited it better.  The poem was called Clair de lune and went on to be highly-rated in a poetry competition at the prestigious Salon Orange in Champagne, so the language chosen for a particular subject, or a particular style, is often very important.

As the following poem sounds very jerky in English, when it should be flowing, with quiet pauses, I was reluctant to display it online.  However, as George was insistent, I decided to scan the original French version which appeared in the Municipal Bulletin with a quote about it from a local newspaper, and include it with the translation.  All complaints should be addressed to George.

The reason that the poem was written concerns another insistent person, Pascal, who harassed me until I wrote something about him and his dog Junior.  The original version was longer and included their names.  It also had a different mood about it.  However, as the entries in the competition had to be limited to twenty lines, the mood changed when I deleted the lines down to twenty.  Pascal and Junior visited me every day while I was working as Guide to a mediaeval castle in 2002.  He sent the long version of the poem to his father, so I felt obliged to give him the shorter, calligraphed, framed version that I had done for an Art show, when I left France to come back to Australia.

Pouance Infos Numero 76 Juin 2003

 

Esquisse de deux amis

(translation)

They resemble each other a lot.

They both have long, lean bodies.

The short one loves food, the tall one is more a gourmet.

How do they manage to stay slim?

 

Neither one nor the other smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol.

Both have sparkling eyes and narrow, pointed faces.

They like other people a lot and mutually adore each other.

 

They take their meals together, watch television together.

They sleep together and both of them snore.

They separate only for work.

The tall one leaves to earn their living.

The short one stays in bed.

 

It’s because they belong to two different races.

The tall one has two legs, the short one has four.

They have been living together for more than ten years.

 

The master, a bit hunched over, takes long paces, with an absent air.

The dog stops, reads a message left by another canine, leaves a reply in return.

The master waits patiently for him to finish.

They set off again, turn the corner and are out of sight.

A man and his dog – my friends.

 

As proof that this poem really did win something (a painting by Dominique Guedon to be precise) the following is the complete article about the prize-winning poems.  I was not there, having received my letter on the day that the article appeared, so I am not in either of the photos.

Having just re-read the article, I am reminded that another of my poems, in another category, came second ex-aequo.  I’d completely forgotten about that one.

Don’t forget:  all complaints and criticisms are to be addressed to George Weaver.  This post is all her fault.

Courrier de l'Ouest du lundi 24 mars 2003.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

Paul Bert, Physiologist and Minister of Public Instruction, demonstrates, in 1883, during a brilliant expose to the Academie on Pasteur, the main lines of the scholar’s work:  he says that Pasteur’s work can be classed in three series which constitute three great discoveries.  The first can be formulated like this:

Each fermentation is the product of the development of a special microbe.”

The second affirms:

“Each infectious illness is produced by the development in the organism of a special microbe.”

The third can be said like this:

“The microbe of an infectious illness, cultivated in certain determined conditions, is attenuated in its nocive activity;  from virus, it has become vaccine.”

Beyond Pasteur’s impressive scientific rigour, as his laboratory notebooks attest, a rigour doubled with a prodigious power for work, also beyond his very great intellectual flexibility, his faculty of being able to ceaselessly manipulate a collection of interchangeable hypotheses, it is his “ecological philosophy” which distinguishes him, his understanding of the connection between living beings and their natural environment, the ties between Man and Nature.  He elaborates this philosophy by stages, each of his works bringing him another stone to build it.  His studies on beer make him understand that the activity of microbes is influenced by their environment, and that microbian life is responsible for the permanent recycling of chemical substances in natural conditions, each bacterium has a role in the organization of the chain of life on Earth:

“If the microscopic beings disappeared from the surface of the Earth, it would be encumbered by animal and vegetal cadavers, by dead organic matter.  It is principally they who give its combustive properties to oxygen.  Without them, life would become impossible, because the work of death would be incomplete.”

The study of the silkworms and, later, human illnesses, made him understand that

“the nature of the life of all living beings is to resist the causes of destruction with which it is naturally surrounded”,

which introduces the notion of the possible coexistence of Man, Animal and microbes, as long as infection cannot declare itself, in particular environmental conditions.  Or, a pacific coexistence.

***

Louis Pasteur, Chemist.

Pasteur was neither Galileo, nor Newton, who attempted to explain the mysteries of the Universe, but he harmonised his activities with the preoccupations of his epoch, by submitting Nature to Science.  Until the XIXth Century, Society hadn’t had much to ask of the Man of Science, that Science that was the fief of the philosophical mind.  Pasteur would conciliate theory and practice throughout his whole life, his works would find their applications on the ground, in Industry, in the hospital, at home, in the city and in the country.  One could say, along with Claire Salomon-Bayet, that after Pasteur

“the whole of everyday life is kneaded with Pasteurism:  vaccinated children, boiled milk, sterilized rubber nipples, interdiction to spit on the ground, washed hands, controlled waters, disinfections, cut hair, short fingernails, municipal drains.”

One could add Pasteurized beer, Pasteurized butter, Pasteurized cheese, Pasteurized milk.  The list goes on and on…

Pasteur is also the judicious choice of men, of disciples whom he forms to his methods, and on whom he relies to transpose the laboratory researches everywhere.  According to Anne-Marie Moulin’s formula,

“the Pasteurians are perhaps Pasteur’s most impressive work”.

Chamberland, Duclaux, Roux, Grancher, Yersin, Loir, Calmette, Nicolle, Metchnikoff are all his direct heirs, who would in turn form the Pasteurians of the second generation, spreading throughout the world the scholar’s methods and doctrine.  Under its impulse, Doctor Calmette would create a Pasteur Institute in Lille, Adrien Loir would direct a Pasteur Institute in Tunis, Yersin would go to track down the plague in China, Nicolle would organize a bacteriological laboratory in Constantinople, Le Dantec would go to Brazil to study Yellow Fever.  The Pasteurian revolution has conquered the whole Earth.  The ideas and methods of Microbiology, by progressively changing the comportments of Medical Doctors and researchers, have changed the social comportments around illness.  By taking the microbe into the laboratory, and the laboratory into the hospital, Pasteur and the Pasteurians invented modern medical research.

If, today, we no longer die from diphtheria, rabies or tuberculosis, it is in great part thanks to this man who was passionate about Science, and to his everyday methodical application to his work.

***

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

Roux is going to transform the Dispensary of the Vaccination Service into a veritable hospital of which the principle would be “to do everything to cut the chain of bacterial transmission”.  The rooms are individual, the personnel enters by an interior corridor and leaves by the balcony, the floor is easy to wash with plenty of water, the walls have rounded angles and are covered with an enamelled surface, the furniture is metallic, the nurses work with naked arms so as not to transmit germs from one patient to another with their sleeves…  A reporter from the newspaper Illustration testifies, in the number of 28 June 1890:

“Therefore let us enter in turn the Pasteur Institute […] and let us begin our visit by the important laboratories of ‘Microbie technique’, where, under the direction of Doctor Roux, series of pupils, most of them after their medical studies, receive in five or six weeks a supplement of instruction which is now indispensable for all Medical Doctors.  […]  In this so clean and so light workshop of the modern scholar, one would seek in vain the damp and dingy retreat, the smoky laboratory of the alchemist of the Middle Ages, with its powdery test-tubes and its stuffed crocodiles.  It is in full light and in all possible conditions of salubrity that one pursues today the discovery of the truth…”

***

In this institution devoted to research which is the Pasteur Institute, not only does one seek, but one finds.  After having worked on tetanos, Roux, assisted by Martin and Chailloux, develops a serum against diphtheria, whose efficacity is tested over several months on children stricken by this terrible illness, in Hopital Trousseau and in Hopital des Enfants-Malades.  He relies on the clinical diagnostic without waiting for the bacteriological diagnostic, and injects the children with the serum from the blood of horses on which he has studied the effects of immunisation, observing the great resistance of these animals to high doses of this illness’ toxins.

The German Behring, who would obtain the Nobel Prize in 1901, would enunciate with Kitasato the principle of the method in this year of 1890:  the serum of the blood of an animal, which is refractory or vaccinated with the help of weak doses of diphtheric or tetanic toxin, is injected into the receiving subject, and procures it immunity against this illness.  The serum of the vaccinated animal then possesses antitoxic properties.  The production of antidiphtheric serum then becomes a source of revenue for the Institute, permitting the financement of the researches.  On the initiative of Le Figaro, a subscription is opened both in France and in other countries for the installation of the Garches Domain and the stables necessary for the production of serum in horses.

The Hopital Pasteur is born.  Within three months, fifty thousand doses of vaccine are distributed free-of-charge.  Doctor Roux will make a Communication on diphtheria in 1894 at the International Congress on Hygiene in Budapest.  This historical Communication, which revolutionizes the History of Medicine, would be received with incredible enthusiasm and would obtain the definitive adhesion of the medical milieu, which can no longer either ignore or refuse this, at last, sure weapon against an illness which is decimating children.  The Concours medical, a periodical, mobilises the profession, exhorts the Medical Practitioners to learn the microbian technique, in particular serodiagnostic, so as to close the gap which separates the Practitioners who have been practising for a long time, from these “young people armed with a knowledge that is different from ours”.  The medical field is at last open to Pasteurism:  created exclusively for treating diphtheria, the Hospital would rapidly take on other infectious diseases:  smallpox, measles and scarlet fever.

In Spring 1895, the former Normaliens celebrate their School’s centenary.  They go to place a commemorative plaque on the little laboratory of the Rue d’Ulm, or rather the garret where one can only enter on one’s knees, and in which Pasteur installed, thirty-seven years earlier, his steamer, and made the first culture bouillons.  Then they go to visit the Institute.  They are received by Roux who has spread out on the tables the instruments “religiously conserved as witnesses to his Master’s progression”, the balloons of the Sea of Ice which gave such a great blow to the murderous theory of spontaneous generation, the test-tubes which were used for the studies on vinification, culture media, as well as an impressive collection of microbes.  Around noon, Pasteur has himself transported into the laboratory.  Roux then takes a microscope and proudly shows him the plague baccillus, which with that of diphtheria, completes their trophies as killers of microbes.

Shortly afterwards, Pasteur leaves to reside in Villeneuve-l’Etang, where Alexandre Dumas would come to chat with him.  He will die, stricken by an attack of uremia, on 28 September 1895.  The funeral will be grandiose.  It is Raymond Poincare, then Minister of Instruction, who will receive the coffin in the name of the Government, and would make a speech “of the highest eloquence”.  On this day, black tails and top hats would be side-by-side with tradesmen’s smocks and the caps of the labourer.  It is the time of reconciliations.  Celine Pouchet would write to Madame Pasteur:

“Madame, permit the daughter of Felix-Archimede Pouchet, whose fights with the illustrious scholar were so resounding, to associate herself with your immense pain and with the mourning of the whole of France.”

The embalmed body of Louis Pasteur is descended into its crypt at the Institute which bears his name, on 27 November 1896.  The French Scientist had become a laic saint.

***

To be continued.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

Thanks to a subscription opened in the New York Herald, four little Americans contaminated by rabies, belonging to working families, are able to come to Paris to be vaccinated.  People are coming from everywhere to be saved from the incurable ill.  By 1st March 1886, three hundred and fifty people have received the treatment.  Only one could not be saved:  Louise Pelletier.  Pasteur is then able to unveil his great project:

“My intention is to found in Paris a model establishment, without having any recourse to the State, with the help of international donations and subscriptions.”

In light of the results, the Academie des sciences names a Commission which unanimously adopts the project that an establishment for the treatment of rabies after being bitten be created in Paris, under the name of Institut Pasteur.

At this epoch, the 1870 War is still weighing heavily on the minds of all Peoples, despite the sixteen years that have passed.  There is great attention being given to this relentless fight which is being pursued against all illnesses.  A subscription is opened in France and other countries to finance the Institute.  The funds are to be received by the Banque de France, the Credit Foncier, the Tresoriers Payeurs Generaux and the Tax Collectors.  A Milan newspaper, La Perseveranza, which has opened a subscription, collects 6,000 francs.  Alsace, the homeland of the little Meister, mobilises, even though eleven months have gone by since the child’s recovery.  Alsace-Lorraine would bring in 43,000 francs.  The movement accelerates, money arrives from everywhere.

Meanwhile, nineteen Russians from the Smolensk province arrive in Paris.  The only French word that they know is “Pasteur”.  Attacked by a rabid wolf, most of them display horrible wounds.  A pope, surprised by the furious animal while on his way to church, had his upper lip and his right cheek ripped off, his face is only a gaping wound.  Five of these unfortunate people are in such a serious state that they have to be transported to the Hotel-Dieu.  Pasteur decides that he needs to do a double innoculation for them, for it is known that after certain bites of rabid wolves, all of the wounded had died.  The other Russians would remain in the laboratory of the Ecole normale.  These poor people are therefore to be seen, dressed in their tourloupe, on their way to their vaccination, their hands and heads covered in compresses, passing silently amongst the very diverse group of those bitten:  an English family, a Basque with his beret on his head, a French peasant woman, an Hungarian in his national costume.  People come from everywhere to be saved, for rabies means certain death after a terrible agony…

Alas, three of the Russians succumb;  the trip from Russia had been too long, the ill had had the time to install itself.  The return of the sixteen survivors is greeted in Russia with a quasi religious fervour and Tsar Alexander takes part in the foundation of the Pasteur Institute by giving 100.000 francs.

Pasteur’s renown grows even more.  The queue of patients lengthens:

“People in rags bitten near streams where they were trying to get a bone with meat still on it from a bulldog, elegant women with hair the colour of henna, that their King Charles Spaniel had scratched, elderly women wearing glasses, whose terrier had fought with a suspicious molossus, a lugubrious cortege that was comical in its implacable variety”,

reports Leo Claretie, from the magazine Coins de Paris.  Meanwhile, the money from the subscriptions is flowing in, the Official Journal does not stop publishing lists of generous donors for the creation of the Institute, where the names of the greatest fortunes mingle with a student’s savings, a working man’s salary.  Pasteur, ageing, his health declining, would say, during a Conference before the Societe philanthropique, in June 1866:

“It must be recognized that our century will have been, more than all the other centuries, concerned with the humble, those suffering and the very young.  Pursued by the fixed idea of helping them, three great things were needed:  we had to combat illness, poverty and ignorance.”

In May, a festival is organized in the Trocadero Palace in honour of Pasteur, subscriptions are still arriving.

On 14 November 1888, the Pasteur Institute is inaugurated in presence of President Sadi Carnot, who climbs the steps on the scholar’s arm.  There are Ministers there, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the Academie de medecine and of the Institute.  Pasteur is tired.  His tongue is paralyzed, his speech hesitant.  Jean-Baptiste Pasteur has to read his father’s inaugural speech.  This speech is full of contained emotion, the elderly fighter is at the sunset of his life:

“Alas, I have the poignant melancholy of entering it [the Institute] as a man vanquished by time, who no longer has around him any of his Masters, nor even any of his companions from the fight.  If I have the pain of saying to myself:  they are no more, at least I have the consolation of thinking that all that we have defended together will not perish.  The collaborators and the disciples who are here share our scientific faith.”

The Institute is a great dispensary for the treatment of rabies, a study centre for virulent and contagious illnesses, and a teaching centre.  The course on microbia technique, directed by Emile Roux, lasts five weeks.  One pupil comments:

“Professor Roux was an outstanding Professor, endowed with an eloquence which did not seek its effect in words but captivated by the sobriety of the expression of the terms.”

The course unfolds directly inside the laboratory amongst the work instruments.  It takes place in the afternoon, so as to permit the Medical Doctors to continue to assume their charges.  The programme contains the knowledge of bacteria, the techniques of bacteriology, the experimentation on animals, the notions of virulence and of immunity, the practice of vaccinations.  The auditors come from all of the countries of the world, and all stages of the medical career are represented, from the young Intern right up to the Faculty Professor and the Head of Hospital Services.  The course in biological chemistry is taught by Duclaux;  the vaccination service, the principal axis of the work, is entrusted to Chamberland.  He has become specialized in the applications of his Master’s principles in everyday life, perfecting the “Chamberland Filter”, a column of porous porcelain which is fixed on the end of taps, and filters the germs and microbes contained in the water, efficiently avoiding the transmission of illnesses through piped water.  He also invents the autoclave, an hermetically sealed apparatus permitting the sterilization by heating of the laboratory instruments.  Finally, a newcomer, the Russian Metchnikoff, who studies white globules and their properties in the defence of organisms, is responsible for the Pasteurians’ personal laboratories.  Metchnikoff, “a zoologist who wandered into Medicine”, as he will call himself, is going to discover the deep mechanisms of the organism’s immunity to microbes.

To be continued.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

At the sight of the fourteen wounds of the little boy from Alsace who is walking with difficulty, he is suffering so much, Pasteur is deeply moved.  What to do?  Can he risk giving a child the preventive treatment which had succeeded on the dogs?  Heavy decision.  If only the cauterization had been done with a red-hot iron!  But what good is a cauterization with phenol twelve hours after the accident?  He makes an appointment for the child and his mother at five o’clock in the afternoon, after a seance at the Institut.  He wants to consult Vulpian, one of his colleagues on the Commission contre la rage, whose judgement he appreciates.  Vulpian gives his opinion that the experiments on the dogs are sufficiently conclusive to authorize hope for the same success with humans, and that it is more than probable that the child is condemned, if he is not treated.  If there is a chance of snatching the little boy from death, might as well seize it.

Escorted by Vulpian and Doctor Grancher, Pasteur goes to the child.  It is decided, with regard to the gravity of the bites, to innoculate that same evening with fourteen day marrow, the one with no virulence, then gradually progress to fresher marrows.  Pasteur, who is not a Medical Doctor, does not have the right to accomplish a medical act on the child, therefore it is Granger who will perform the injections.  As for him, he busies himself with all the rest:  he goes himself Boulevard Saint-Michel to buy a metallic bed for little Joseph Meister and he organizes a bedroom for the mother and child in the former Rollin College.  Each day, a more virulent marrow is innoculated.  Pasteur is worried, he doesn’t sleep, his wife reassures him:  the little boy seems, in fact, to be feeling better and better, and the scholar is able to write to his son-in-law:

“One of the greatest medical feats of the century is perhaps being prepared and you will regret not having seen it.”

The treatment lasts ten days, little Meister is innoculated ten times, finally, Pasteur goes as far as injecting, on 16 July 1885, at one o’clock in the morning, a one-day marrow, the one that gives rabies to rabbits every time, after only seven days of incubation.  On the evening of this redoubtable test, the little boy, after having embraced his “dear Monsieur Pasteur”, goes to bed calmly.  Pasteur would pass a cruel night.

Thirty days later, he will be able to sleep peacefully again, the child is saved.  And in 1886, he would be able to write to the little miracle boy:

“I received your last letter with great pleasure, because I saw that for writing, spelling and reasoning, you have made very marked progress.  […]  That by your work and your obedience to listen to your parents’ and your schoolmasters’ advice, you are making them all happy.”

He would say:

“I carry him in my heart, this dear child, who was for me, for long weeks, the subject of so many alarms.”

A Service for the preventive treatment of rabies after having been bitten must be organized, that is his project.  An event is going to force him to accelerate this organization.  Six little shepherds from the Jura have been charged in a field by a rabid dog.  While the children were running away, the biggest of them, then in his fifteenth year, Jean-Baptiste Jupille, faces it with his whip.  But in one bound, the dog throws itself on him and bites him on the left hand.  A fight then takes place, the child is again bitten, this time on the right hand, the whip falls into the grass.  He seizes the dog by the neck, calls his little brother to bring him the whip, then he muzzles the dog with the leather strip.  Then taking his wooden clog, he knocks out the animal which is frothing at the mouth and drags it along to a stream which flows along the field, and finally, drowns it.  The autopsy practised by two Veterinary Surgeons is clear, the dog is rabid.  Pasteur asks that the child come from the Jura.  But six days have already passed since the accident, is it still possible to save him?  He would save him like the little Meister.

Three months after the vaccination of the little boy from Alsace, on 26 October, before the Academie, Pasteur describes a new method for healing rabies.  It is the text of a combat, for he is attempting an experiment on Man without having succeeded in isolating the agent responsible for the illness.  But he is in a hurry, in a hurry to save other lives.  He cleverly ends his communication by the story of young Jupille’s adventure, leaving the learned assembly moved by the impression of this child who sacrificed himself to save his companions.  Bouley, the President of the Academie then speaks:

“We have the right to say that the date of the seance which is happening here at this moment shall ever remain memorable in the History of Medicine and forever glorious for French Science, since it is that of one of the greatest progresses which have ever been accomplished in the order of medical things:  the progress realized by the discovery of an efficient means of preventive treatment for an illness of which the centuries, in their succession since the beginning of time, have always leagued the incurability.”

As the chronicler of the newspaper Le Gaulois would report it:

“The passers-by who were traversing yesterday the vast solitudes of the interior courtyards of the Institute stopped in their tracks, astounded, upon hearing salvos of applause.”

After Jupille, it is Louise Pelletier, ten years old, bitten on 3 October, vaccinated from 9 November.  But it is too late, the ill had already made great progress in the little body.  Pasteur goes to the dying child’s bedside, Rue Dauphine, where he had found a lodging for her with her parents.  He will remain for the whole day to watch over her, and when all hope becomes lost, would say:

“I wanted so much to save your little girl!”

Then, on the stairs, he would burst into sobs.  His opposers react:

“It’s your virus-vaccine which awoke!”

A test is made on a rabbit:  the virus-vaccine is still attenuated.

To be continued.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

Pasteur’s first scientific contact with rabies dates from 11 December 1880:  a contaminated child is signalled at Sainte-Eugenie Hospital.  He looks for the microbe in the child’s saliva, but doesn’t find it.  Disappointed, he hands his test-tubes over to Doctor Roux who is testing attentuation techniques, while he himself continues to work on the virulence idea.  The experiments are high-risk for the scholars, the danger of contamination is everywhere, witness this scene:  one day, Pasteur has a rabid dog brought to him, wanting to take a saliva sample from it.  Two assistants take the frothing bulldog out of an iron cage, they throw a rope with a sliding knot around its neck and pick it up.  The dog which is struggling, furious, is stretched out on a table, its partly muzzled jaw slightly open.  The assistants hold the rabid dog still while Pasteur, a slim glass tube between his lips, his head leaning over the dog’s muzzle, sucks a few drops of frothy saliva into the tube.  The experiment is useless:  trial after trial, Pasteur determines that the saliva secretions of the dogs are not virulent enough, and that the microbe, after incubation in its victim’s body, becomes localised in the marrow of the spine.  More samples need to be taken.  Doctor Roux’ niece, Mary Cressac, reports:

“Roux, Chamberland and Thuillier are all leaning over the table.  If the animal gives them a jolt, if one of them cuts himself with his scalpel, if one little piece of rabid marrow penetrates the wound, then it would have been the perspective of weeks of anguishedly asking:  will rabies declare itself or not?  At the beginning of each seance, a loaded revolver was placed within reach…  if something unfortunate occurred to one of the three, the one of the other two with the most courage would shoot him in the head…”

Excessive dramatisation?  Probably not:  the unfortunate Thuillier, aged twenty-six, would be struck down by cholera in Alexandria, while accompanying a French Mission charged with studying the epidemic of this illness in Egypt.  Had he neglected a few of the prescriptions that Pasteur had written down for him before the Mission’s departure, or had they been found to have been too exaggerated because they were so minutious?  Whatever happened, the young man died within forty-eight hours, despite the presence at his side of Roux and a battalion of French and Italian Doctors who treated him until the end.  Doctor Koch, who was also in Alexandria, nailed two wreaths on the coffin, saying:

“They are modest, but they are of laurier;  they are those given to the glorious.”

Roux puts together a protocol.  With potassium, he dries the spinal marrow of rabbits contaminated with rabies, suspended in glass bottles.  The technique is efficient.  An infected marrow dried in this position for fourteen days becomes inactive.  Extracts of spinal marrow dried for fourteen, then for thirteen, then for eleven days are injected into dogs and produce in them a state that is refractory to the illness, which is confirmed by a last injection of virulent marrow, which has then become without danger for the animal.  Experiments on a big scale have to be done…  This means money.  Pasteur asks for the meeting of a Commission from the Ministry of Instruction.  After enquiry, this Commission considers that Pasteur’s laboratory at the Ecole normale has become “master of the refractory state”;  which means that the animals vaccinated by the contaminated marrow of rabbits have all become refractory to rabies.  A former property of the Imperial Family, at Villeneuve-l’Etang, to the West of Paris, is bought by the State and affected to Pasteur and his team to perform experiments on a greater scale.  Packs of rabid and healthy dogs are brought there from the Pound and locked up in the former stables, transformed into kennels by the Scientists.  Day and night, the animals’ whining and barking can be heard, which creates some conflict with the neighbours, who are worried about the presence of rabid guard dogs.  The scholar and his team move in, basic repairs are made in the Commons.  A Financier who is passing through would say, astounded by the Spartan installation:

“It’s not the comfort that is going to get in your way”.

Pasteur pursues two series of experiments in parallel on one hundred and twenty-five dogs.  The first consists in making preventive innoculations to render the dogs refractory to rabies, the second is to prevent rabies from erupting in dogs which have been bitten or innoculated.  The results are way beyond the scholar’s expectations.  He knows that he is on the right path, but he doesn’t know how his procedure “functions”.  During a seance of the Academie francaise where work is being done on the dictionary, Pasteur, entirely absorbed by his subject, is not listening and scribbles on a paper that has come into his hand:

“I am led to believe that the rabies virus must be accompanied by a matter which, by impregnating the nervous system, makes it improper for the culture of the figured microbe.  From there, vaccinal immunity.  If this is so, the theory could well be very general.  This would be an immense discovery.”

One point is however established:  preventive innoculation.  But the months pass by without him being able to understand how the antirabies vaccination works.

***

One Monday morning, 6 July 1885, he sees arriving in his laboratory a little boy from Alsace, aged nine, Joseph Meister, bitten two days before by a rabid dog.  His mother is with him.  She tells him all about the accident.  Her child was going alone to school on a little pathway when a dog leaped onto him.  Knocked down, incapable of defending himself, the child only thought to cover his face with his hands.  A mason, who had seen from a distance what was happening, rushed over, armed with an iron bar, and obliged the furious dog to let go by hitting it repeatedly, then he had lifted up the little Meister covered in saliva and blood.  The dog went home to its master, the grocer Theodore Vone, and bit him, without however its teeth succeeding in penetrating his clothes.  The grocer killed the dog by shooting it.  The autopsy revealed that its stomach was filled with hay, straw, pieces of wood.  Doctor Weber, from Vulle, after having cauterized the wounds with phenol, advised the Meisters to take the train to Paris.

To be continued.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) in 1886.

In 1896, Emile Duclaux would comment:

“To everybody’s surprise, even Pasteur’s, almost all of these chickens (vaccinated) would resist, while the new chickens coming from the market would succumb […]  What spirit of divination prodded Pasteur to knock at this door which was asking only to be opened?”

Pasteur in fact again finds the effects of the ageing of the illness already noted in the corpuscules of the silkworm, and he again sees as well the story of Jenner:  in 1796, Edward Jenner had innoculated Man with a cow illness, vaccine, thereby preserving him from smallpox.  But between Jenner and Pasteur, there had been the discovery of microbes.  Further, with the chickens of Summer 1879, an unexpected and very important phenomenon was appearing in the course of the manipulation:  resistance to virulence.  This new fact initiates for Pasteur and his pupils a study programme, that of the virus-vaccines.

The second act takes place at Maison-Alfort.  During the researches on chicken cholera, those on anthrax continue.  If the guinea pig is a living reservoir transporting chicken cholera, the scholar determines that it is the earthworms which, in the countryside, play this role for anthrax.  By bringing soil to the surface, they bring the germs of animals who have died from anthrax and have been buried in the pastures by the peasants.  The healthy animals then graze on grass mixed with germs and in turn perish.  It is again Doctor Toussaint who sets off the researches of Pasteur and his pupils.  Toussaint announces that he has succeeded in vaccinating sheep thanks to a culture of anthrax submitted to heat.  Pasteur asks the Minister of Agriculture for the authorisation to make some tests on Toussaint’s vaccinating liquid at the Ecole veterinaire in Maison-Alfort:  it is a failure, the innoculated sheep all die.  The attenuation obtained by Toussaint is very real, but not definitive, the anthrax microbe, momentarily weakened, had become virulent again.  However, it is the right direction, and the team begins laboratory trials.  It finds the temperature and the limit of the length for attenuating the virulence of the bacteria, without removing from them a certain possibility for multiplying.  At the Academie, on Monday 28 February 1881, Chamberland, Roux and Pasteur co-sign a communication on the anthrax vaccine and the whole table of virulences.

The third act then takes place in the country, at Pouilly-le-Fort, near Melun.  This time, Pasteur is directing the play.  Hippolyte Rossignol, Veterinary Surgeon, suggests a farm as the place of action.  The actors will be sheep.  Rossignol has taken care of everything:  contacts have been made with the local aediles, with the Societe d’Agriculture in Melun.  This Society is presided by the Baron de La Rochette, a friend of the Sciences, and it has been placed at the disposition of the scholar and his team along with its flock of sixty sheep.  Senators, conseillers generaux, Farmers, Veterinary Surgeons, Medical Doctors are all there.  The Press too has been invited.  Pasteur writes the programme of the day, a great number of copies of which are distributed.  Certain sheep are to be vaccinated, others not, and it will be predicted to the audience right to the last sheep how many will die when they are later put in contact with the anthrax microbe!  The preliminary experiments in the laboratory and in Alfort have been rehearsals, but certain colleagues have not been convinced.  The Scientist wants to strike hard, take risks, and cover in ridicule his adversaries, like Colin.  Further, there is suspense:  the injections are made on 5 May 1881, the results will only be known on 2 June.  They return to Paris.  On 2 June 1881, before leaving for Pouilly-le-Fort, the Master writes to his disciples:

“Last Tuesday, we innoculated all the sheep, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, with very virulent anthrax.  And the telegramme (from Rossignol) announces that, when we arrive today at two o’clock, all of the unvaccinated ones will be dead.  As for the vaccinated ones, they are all standing.  The telegramme ends with the words:  stunning success.  There is joy in the laboratory and at home.  Rejoice my dear children.”

But a vaccinated ewe dies on 4 June.  Is this a defeat?  No, the autopsy shows that the death was provoked by that of the foetus that the ewe was carrying.

The curtain falls, Pasteur can bow to the public.  The experiments of Pouilly-le-Fort will resound prodigiously.  Henry Bouley, from La Revue Scientifique, will write:

“Pouilly-le-Fort, as famous today as all the great battlefields, where Monsieur Pasteur, a new Apollo, did not fear to launch oracles, more certain of success that the God of Poetry could ever be.”

***

Among his childhood memories, Pasteur counted a terrible one.  The event went back to the month of October 1831.  Terror was spreading throughout the Jura because of a rabid wolf which was biting animals and people along its route.  The people bitten on their hands and heads were succumbing to rabies, with atrocious suffering.  In the Communes of Villers-Farlay, Ecleux and Mouchard alone, there had been eight victims.  The young Louis had seen cauterized with a red-hot iron, in the forge situated a few metres from his father’s house, the wounds of an inhabitant of Arbois named Nicole, who had been attacked by the wolf.  Nicole had not survived.

For years, the fear of this rabid wolf survived throughout the whole region.  This ill was reputed incurable, and, on top of that, the patient bitten by an animal was often finished off by members of his or her own family.  In 1810, a Philosopher had asked the Government to adopt the following Law:

“It is forbidden, on pain of death, to strangle, suffocate, bleed from all four members, or in any other way cause the death of an individual suffering from rabies…”

In 1816, only fifteen years before Pasteur had seen the blacksmith’s red-hot poker burn Nicole’s flesh, the newspapers were recounting the death of an unfortunate rabies sufferer suffocated between two mattresses.  On the subject of this mercy killing, they were saying in the Press of the epoch:

“So it is the duty of the Doctor to repeat that this illness cannot be transmitted from human to human, and that there is no danger in caring for those suffering from it.”

Some people who had been bitten by rabid dogs were submitted to the bite of a viper to try to neutralize the virus.  A cruel and useless ordeal.

To be continued.

%d bloggers like this: