Handwritten Pasteur Letter Regarding Membership in the Prestigious Académie Française

Signed by Louis Pasteur

Item: 21588
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PASTEUR, LOUIS. (1822-1895). French chemist and microbiologist who conducted pioneering research on rabies, chicken cholera and anthrax; discovered the process, named pasteurization in his honor, through which bacteria in liquids are destroyed by heating. ALS. (“L. Pasteur”). 1p. 8vo. Paris, February 23, 1879. To a “colleague.” [French mathematician JOSEPH BERTRAND (1822-1900), longtime permanent secretary of the Paris Academy of Sciences and future member of the exclusive Académie Française]. In French with translation.

“You have probably heard that I was invited to submit my candidature for the Académie Française I have never, even in my wildest dreams, imagined such a possibility. The idea never crossed my mind. I immediately spoke about you and was told that the Académie would not accept two lifetime members from the Academy of Sciences, because that would set a significant precedent with uncomfortable consequences. And that is how I became candidate.

I want to be the one to tell you this true story because I care very much that you always consider me your devoted and affectionate colleague…”

Louis Pasteur

Pasteur’s research on animal diseases, most notably chicken cholera and anthrax, were of lasting benefit to French agriculture. Beginning in 1880, his successful inoculations of infected animals paved the way for mass immunizations, wiping out these scourges that had so devastated the industry. Pasteur also investigated the cure and prevention of rabies, and his research was hailed by Academy of Sciences president Henri Bouley as “one of the greatest advances ever accomplished in the domain of medicine,” (quoted in The Private Science of Louis Pasteur, Geison). By the time he died, at least twenty-thousand people worldwide had been treated by Pasteur’s method of inoculation.

Pasteur’s many important achievements were acknowledged with such honors as the Royal Society’s Rumford Medal in 1856 and the Copley Medal in 1874, as well as the French Academy of Science’s Montyon Prizes in 1859, Jecker Prize in 1861 and Alhumbert Prize in 1862. He was elected to the Académie Nationale Médecine in 1873, and in 1887, Pasteur was appointed permanent secretary of the physical science section of the French Academy of Sciences.

Our letter regards the exclusive Académie Française, the pre-eminent body for matters pertaining to the French language. Established in 1635, lifetime membership is limited to 40 “immortals.” On February 14, 1879, Académie member and journalist Ustazade Silvestre de Sacy died and on February 22, the day before our letter, writer and critic Saint-René Taillandier died, leaving two vacancies. However, Pasteur would not be elected to that esteemed body until 1881, succeeding French philologist Émile Littré. Bertrand, for whom Bertrand’s Postulate and Bertrand’s Paradox are named, became a member in 1884. In addition to his work in mathematics, economics and thermodynamics, Bertrand translated German mathematician and physicist, Carl Friedrich Gauss’ works into French. At the time of our letter, members of the Académie, composed of “a curious cocktail of personalities… [and] was not intimidated by men of science among the literary lights and was glad to receive them, just as she received the star performers of politics, the bar, or the pulpit,” (Louis Pasteur, Debré).

Folded with some creasing and light, uneven age toning. In very good condition.

Handwritten Pasteur Letter Regarding Membership in the Prestigious Académie Française

Signed by Louis Pasteur

$3000 • item #21588

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