Maxime Schwartz
Louis Pasteur and Chemistry

Maxime Schwartz


For most of our contemporaries, Louis Pasteur is mainly known as the man who invented the rabies vaccine. However, his contributions to science were far more numerous. His work on crystallography led to the notion that molecules are three-dimensional objects and he founded the concept of chirality. He then discovered a new world, the world of microbes; not that he was the first to see them but he was the first to demonstrate their ubiquity and their role in many natural processes such as fermentation and putrefaction. He also showed that these microbes did not appear as a result of spontaneous generation. In parallel with Robert Koch, in Germany, he proved the role of microbes in infectious diseases, thus opening the way to the rationalisation of hygiene and the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Finally, after Jenner, who had discovered in the case of smallpox the concept of vaccination two centuries before, Pasteur showed how to produce vaccines from the very microbes that caused the diseases. This conference will show that chemistry, the discipline in which Pasteur had been trained, underlies several of his discoveries.

Maxime Schwartz - Short Biography#

Maxime SCHWARTZ defended in 1967a phD thesis prepared under the guidance of Jacques Monod at Institut Pasteur. He then spent two years of post-doctoral studies in the laboratory of James D. Watson at Harvard University before coming back to Institut Pasteur where he remained for most of his scientific career. He has been employed both by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Institut Pasteur. In 1986, he reached a position of full professor in both institutions.

Most of his scientific work dealt with the molecular biology of bacteria. From 1975 to 1987, he directed the Unit of Molecular Genetics at Institut Pasteur. From 1985 to 1987 he was the Scientific Director of the institute and then became its General Director, a position which he occupied for 12 years.

During the years that followed (2001-2006) he was the Scientific Director of the French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA), where he also chaired an expert committee in charge of giving advice to the government on the licensing of genetically modified organisms.

He published in 2001 “How the cows turned mad”, which was translated in English, Japanese and Russian, and, in 2008, together with François Rodhain, “Microbes or Men, who will win?” In 2009, he published, together with Jean Castex, a book on the Franco-American controversy regarding the discovery of the AIDS virus. In 1999, he also published, with Annick Perrot “Pasteur, from microbes to vaccines”.

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