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The Genius from the JURA Born 200 years ago in Dole, world-famous chemist Louis Pasteur returned regularly to his native Jura. Gillian Thornton headed east to find out more. As someone who loves both history and houses, I’ve always found it hard to resist a period property with a personality attached. But few have left such a lasting impression on me as the house of Louis Pasteur at Arbois in Franche-Comté. Full of atmosphere and personal artefacts, it feels as though the great man has just popped out for a baguette and could return at any moment. Nestled up against Switzerland in the foothills of the Jura mountains, Arbois is a tranquil small town surrounded by a lush landscape of rolling pastures and vineyards. Not at all the place where you would expect to find a homelaboratory for a man who made some of the most important scientific findings of the age. Of any age. Now, 200 years after his birth, there are thought to be more French streets named after Louis Pasteur than any other public figure. So what exactly did he do? To those of us with a sketchy grasp of science, the technicalities of Pasteur’s achievements can be hard to understand, especially when it comes to his first big discovery, molecular asymmetry. But it’s not hard to appreciate the difference his findings made to a 19th century society that understood little about the causes of disease in plants, animals and humans. Pasteur was to change all that. The story begins in Dole where Louis was born on 27 December 1882, the son of a tanner who had been decorated during the Napoleonic Wars. Two centuries later, the genius from the Jura has been celebrated throughout 2022 with exhibitions, scientific workshops and family activities across his native area and beyond. But you can get close to this amazing man at any time. From February to November, the two properties most closely associated with the scientist and his family are open to the public, key sites on a self-drive Route Pasteur. When Louis was four, the family moved to Arbois, 35 Km from Dole, where he attended the local primary school before moving to secondary school in nearby Besançon. In 1845, he was awarded a science degree in Paris and from then on, Pasteur focussed on a career on scientific research and teaching. At the age of just 31, Pasteur was appointed Dean of the Science Faculty at Lille University where he began to study fermentation. He spent several years studying both the beneficial and harmful effects of microbes on foodstuffs, applying his findings to the contamination problems that beset the French wine and beer industries. And in 1862, he came up with a revolutionary process to kill off bad microbes. Named pasteurization in his honour, it has been applied to milk and a wide range of other foods ever since. One discovery led to another. By 1866, Pasteur and his wife Marie had lost three of their five children – two to typhoid fever 58 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 59
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