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Science History: The Rabies Vaccine

            In the late 1800’s, French cities
and provincial towns were bustling with new discoveries waiting to be uncovered.
It wasn’t until July 6, 1885 that a new discovery in medicine would arrive.

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            When nine-year-old boy Joseph Meister
was sent to a hospital in Paris and met with two trained practitioners and a famous
scientist who specialized in chemistry and microbiology named Louis Pasteur, it
was clear that the boy was in serious pain, carrying multiple
infectious-looking wounds from a rabid dog.

            From past research Pasteur knew the
symptoms of rabies which would take its toll a month after a victim has been
bitten. Symptoms included violent foaming of the mouth and followed by a
torturous, slow death. Luckily for young Meister, Pasteur had been researching
multiple ways to treated rabies. Pasteur created his first-ever vaccine and had
a doctor administer it to the child for the first time. Meister received
thirteen injections and, through extensive observation, had shown no symptoms
of rabies.

            Although Pasteur created a
successful vaccine, there was much speculation about Pasteur’s scientific
approach into creating such a miraculous tool. When Pasteur’s laboratory notes
were made public a century later, researchers found that the famous scientist’s
research deviated greatly from the actual claims and methods he used on the
boy. Sources also claimed that Pasteur manipulated data to “fit in” with his
findings and administered a reverse method to the boy, which was not backed up
by any prior experiments or tests.

            Despite accusations of fraud and
unethicality, Pasteur Institute was established in recognition of Louis Pasteur
who developed many scientific breakthroughs throughout his life in France. Pasteur’s
message to the anyone studying the sciences was to prove that science should
not always stay objective; that even if the scientific methods leading up to a
discovery are complex and misleading, the findings from the results should not
be made any less valid. This way of thinking would lead many scientists and researchers
from all over the world question the scientific approach and ethicality of
medical research.

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