The Genius of Pasteur: Saving the ‘Poilus’
Annick Perrot is Honorary Curator of the Pasteur Museum. She is the author, with Maxime Schwartz, of Pasteur et ses lieutenants (“Pasteur and his Lieutenants”) et de Pasteur et Koch (“Pasteur and Koch”), both published by Editions Odile Jacob.
Maxime Schwartz is a molecular biologist who has served as Director General of the Institut Pasteur. He has published (by Editions Odile Jacob) Comment les vaches sont devenues folles (“How Cows Go Mad”) ; Des microbes ou des hommes, qui va l’emporter ? (“Men or Microbes: Who Will Win?”) (avec François Rodhain) et La Découverte du virus du sida (“The Discovery of the AIDS Virus”) (avec Jean Castex). In this war, which would turn out to be the deadliest in history, Pasteur's disciples mobilized themselves to save lives: on the front, as in their laboratories, they applied the discoveries of Pasteur to take part in the fight in their own way. Science had put itself at the service of history and played a leading role in it. The story of the commitment of these men in standing with the “Poilus” (French infantrymen) is told here for the first time.
Fight against infections, typhoid, typhus and malaria, new surgical techniques carried out in vans converted into operating theatres ("autochirs"), rules of hygiene, vaccination campaigns: it was a rare moment in history when science reinvented itself day by day, testing hypotheses and drawing lessons for the future.
Each portrait of these people of science and battlefield, from Pasteur’s successor, Émile Roux, to Marie Curie, via the physician Claudius Regaud, who created the first University Hospital, speaks of both the horror of the carnage and the hope brought by the nascent field of microbiology. We thought we knew almost everything about the Great War, but this book shows that there is much that we did not know.