If you back into the history of the medical profession and the various ideas regarding the cause of disease that were held by leading physicians before Pasteur first promulgated his notorious "germ theory", you will find convincing evidence that Pasteur discovered nothing, and that he deliberately appropriated, falsified and perverted another man's work.
The 'germ theory', so-called, long antedated Pasteur - so long, in fact, that he was able to present it as new; and he got away with it!
F. Harrison, Principal Professor of Bacteriology at Macdonald College (Faculty of Agriculture, McGill University), Quebec, Canada, wrote an Historical Review of Microbiology, published in Microbiology, a text book, in which he says in part:
"Geronimo Fracastorio (an Italian poet and physician, 1483 - 1553) of Verona, published a work (De Contagionibus et Contagiosis Morbis, et eorum Curatione) in Venice in 1546 which contained the first statement of the true nature of contagion, infection, or disease organisms, and of the modes of transmission of infectious disease. He divided diseases into those which infect by immediate contact, through intermediate agents, and at a distance through the air. Organisms which cause disease, called seminaria contagionum, he supposed to be of the nature of viscous or glutinous matter, similar to the colloidal states of substances described by modern physical chemists. These particles, too small to be seen, were capable of reproduction in appropriate media, and became pathogenic through the action of animal heat. Thus Fracastorio, in the middle of the sixteenth century, gave us an outline of morbid processes in terms of microbiology."
For a book published more than three hundred years before Pasteur 'discovered' the germ theory, this seems to be a most astonishing anticipation of Pasteur's ideas, except that - not having a microscope - Fracastorio apparently did not realize that these substances might be individual living organisms.
According to Harrison, the first compound microscope was made by H. Jansen in 1590 in Holland, but it was not until about 1683 that anything was built of sufficient power to show up bacteria. He continues:
"In the year 1683, Antonius van Leenwenhoek, a Dutch naturalist and a maker of lenses, communicated to the English Royal Society the results of observations which he had made with a simple microscope of his own construction, magnifying from 100 to 150 times. He found in water saliva, dental tartar, etc., what he termed animalcula. He described what he saw, and in his drawings showed both rod-like and spiral form, both of which he said had motility. In all probability, the two species he saw were those now recognized as bacillus buccalis maximus and spirillum sputigenum.
Leenwenhoek's observations were purely objective and in striking contrast with the speculative views of M. A. Plenciz, a Viennese physician, who in 1762 published a germ theory of infectious diseases. Plenciz maintained that there was a special organism by which each infectious disease was produced, that micro-organisms were capable of reproduction outside of the body, and that they might be conveyed from place to place by the air."
Here is Pasteur's great thought in toto - his complete germ theory - and put in print over a century before Pasteur thought of it(?), or published it as his own!
Note how concisely it anticipates all Pasteur's ideas on germs. While there seems to be no proof that Plenciz had a microscope, or knew of Leenwenhoek's animalcula, both are possible, and likely, as he was quite prominent; and he, rather than Pasteur, should have any credit that might come from such a discovery - if the germ theory has any value. This idea, which, to the people of that time at least, must have accounted easily and completely for such strange occurrences as contagion, infection and epidemics, would have been widely discussed in the medical or scientific circles of that time, and in literature available to Pasteur.
That it was widely known is indicated by the fact that the world-famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale, published an attack on the idea in 1860, over 17 years before Pasteur adopted it and claimed it as his own.
She said of 'infection':
Diseases are not individuals arranged in classes, like cats and dogs, but conditions growing out of one another.
Is it not living in a continual mistake to look upon diseases as we do now, as separate entities, which must exist, like cats and dogs, instead of looking upon them as conditions, like a dirty and a clean condition, and just as much under our control; or rather as the reactions of kindly nature, against the conditions in which we have placed ourselves?
I was brought up to believe that smallpox, for instance, was a thing of which there was once a first specimen in the world, which went on propagating itself, in a perpetual chain of descent, just as there was a first dog, (or a first pair of dogs) and that smallpox would not begin itself, any more than a new dog would begin without there having been a parent dog.
Since then I have seen with my own eyes and smelled with my own nose smallpox growing up in first specimens, either in closed rooms or in overcrowded wards, where it could not by any possibility have been 'caught', but must have begun.
I have seen diseases begin, grow up, and pass into one another. Now, dogs do not pass into cats.
I have seen, for instance, with a little overcrowding, continued fever grow up; and with a little more, typhoid fever; and with a little more, typhus, and all in the same ward or hut.
Would it not be far better, truer, and more practical, if we looked upon disease in this light (for diseases, as all experience shows, are adjectives, not noun-substantives):
- True nursing ignores infection, except to prevent it. Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attention to the patient, are the only defence a true nurse either asks or needs.
- Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection. The greater part of nursing consists of preserving cleanliness.
- The specific disease doctrine is the grand refuge of weak, uncultured, unstable minds, such as now rule in the medical profession. There are no specific diseases; there are specific disease conditions."
Here you have Florence Nightingale, one of the most famous nurses in history, after life-long experience with infection, contagion and epidemics, challenging the germ theory 17 years before Pasteur put it forward as his own discovery! (See Ch.8, p.61).
She clearly understood it and its utter fallacy better before 1860 than Pasteur did, either in 1878 or later!
And, to see what a parasite Pasteur was on men who did things, let us digress and go back a few years, to the time when the study of germs was an outgrowth of the study of fermentation.