Paris: Victor Masson, 1858.
First printing of this landmark paper, “often considered the beginning of bacteriology as a modern science, [which constitutes] the first demonstration of the connection between a specific fermentation and the activity of a specific microorganism” (Garrison & Morton). “In this epochal paper [Pasteur] first published his research on lactic fermentation … A great milestone in biochemistry” (Neville II, p. 274). “Pasteur's first paper on fermentation contains most of the central theoretical and methodological features of his biological theory of fermentation, in particular the concept of fermentation as a product of the growth of yeast, the idea that air is a source of microscopic yeasts and other micro-organisms, and the notion of specificity, in which each fermentation could be traced to a specific micro-organism” (Dibner). “Pasteur's concept of fermentation as a biological process challenged the chemical theory of fermentation put forth by Liebig, which Pasteur was able to disprove with his experiments on alcoholic and acetic fermentation” (Norman).
“Pasteur’s memoir expressed the basic approach and point of view which informed all of his subsequent work on fermentation. After a historical introduction he began by claiming that “just as an alcoholic ferment exists–namely, brewer’s yeast–which is found wherever sugar breaks down into alcohol and carbonic acid–so too there is a special ferment–a lactic yeast–always present when sugar becomes lactic acid” … Throughout the memoir Pasteur more nearly assumed than proved that lactic yeast “is a living organism, … that its chemical action on sugar corresponds to its development and organization,” and that the nitrogenous substances in the fermenting medium served merely as its food. Nonetheless, his convictions were firm and his conception of fermentation was already remarkably complete … With two striking exceptions this memoir contains the central theoretical and methodological features of all of Pasteur’s work on fermentation–the biological conception of fermentation as the result of the activity of living microorganisms; the view that the substances in the fermenting medium serve as food for the causative microorganism and must therefore be appropriate to its nutritional requirements; the notion of specificity, according to which each fermentation can be traced to a specific microorganism; the recognition that particular chemical features of the medium can promote or impede the development of any one microorganism in it; the notion of competition among different microorganisms for the aliments contained in the media; the assumption that air might be the source of the microorganisms that appear in fermentations; and the technique of directly and actively sowing the microorganism presumed responsible for a given fermentation in order to isolate and purify it. The two missing features, which soon completed Pasteur’s basic conception, were the technique of cultivating microorganisms (and thereby producing fermentations) in a medium free of organic nitrogen and his notion of fermentation as “life without air”” (DSB).
Pasteur’s paper underwent roughly simultaneous publication in the Annales de Chimie et de Physique [the offered paper] and the Mémoires de la Société des Sciences, de l'Agriculture et des Arts de Lille, 2nd series, 5 (1858). A much-abridged version appeared in the Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences (Paris) 45 (1857).
Brock, Milestones in Microbiology, pp. 27-30; Dibner 198, Garrison-Morton 2472 and Horblit 82 (abridged version); Norman 1653 (offprint).
Pp. 404-418 in Annales de Chimie et de Physique, Troisième Série, Tome 52, 1858. 8vo (226 x 142 mm), pp. 512 with one folding lithographed plate. Uncut and unopened in original printed wrappers. Wrappers with some wear, especially rear wrapper.