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Blupete's Weekly Commentary

December 14, 1997.


In 1836, Cagnìard de la Tour discovered the yeast-plant was a living organism, which, when placed in a proper medium, -- feeds, grows, and reproduces itself; what Cagnìard hit upon was organic growth. Some seventy-one years later, in 1907, Eduard Buchner, a German chemist, won the Nobel prize for demonstrating that fermentation is due to chemical processes in the yeast. But there were many who came before Buchner, those of the 19th century, who did much to advance the health of mankind. In 1837, a Berliner by the name of Theodor Schwann (1810-82) found that when meat was "effectually screened from ordinary air, and supplied solely with calcined air [a vacuum] putrefaction never sets in." The revelation that came was that there were unseen noxious things that we could not see that travel in the air! Germs!

That a human being was in constant battle in life with life, was not so clear to these early scientists, and no one recorded a thought about the human immunization system. Great advances, however, were to be made: Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), whose findings were to be the base for the modern study of bacteriology; Emil von Behring (1854-1917) a German bacteriologist discovered diphtheria and tetanus antitoxins (for this discovery Behring was to become the first Nobel prize in medicine); ILya Mechnikov (1845-1916), a Russian biologist, discovered phagocytes (cells which devour infective organisms); Jules Bordet (1870-1961), the Belgian physiologist, discovered the microbe of whooping cough; Richard Pfeiffer (1858-1945), the German biologist, and Hans Zinsser (1878-1940), the American bacteriologist, both, made advances in the area of immunization, of prophylactic treatment of such diseases as typhoid, typhus, and cholera: no longer would they be considered scourges of mankind. And finally, one must mention, Lord Joseph Lister (1827-1912), the English surgeon, who, in addition to "important observations on the coagulation of the blood, inflammation, &c., gave a paper to the University of Edinburgh in 1860, a lecture which was to revolutionized modern surgery: "The Effect of the Antiseptic System of Treatment on the Salubrity of a Surgical Hospital."

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Peter Landry

December, 1997 (2019)