fivemack (fivemack) wrote,

Tourist suggestion

Should you ever find yourself in the 15th Arrondisement of Paris, go to metro 'Pasteur' on boulevard Pasteur, and follow the signs down Rue de Docteur Roux (a collaborator of Pasteur's) to the Institute Pasteur, on whose grounds is the Pasteur Museum. You need to bring a passport to get through the institute's security; the French for anti-terrorism is, wonderfully, 'vigi-pirates'.

I hadn't realised quite how much of early microbiology was done by Pasteur. Starting in 1849, he discovered chiral compounds, disproved spontaneous generation, figured out (to France's great economic advantage) the mechanisms of fermentation for wine and beer, saved the Languedoc silk industry (I was until today unaware that Languedoc had ever had a silk industry), and also discovered the attenuation method of making vaccines and applied it to chicken cholera, anthrax and (using live rabbits as the culture medium) rabies. The equipment with which he made these discoveries is all on display in one room in the Pasteur Museum (open 1400-1730 Monday-Friday, entrance €4, closed August), which is otherwise the apartment in which he spent the last years of his life; there is a good eight-page tour guide in English

Pasteur is buried in a crypt in the basement of the Pasteur Museum.

And this is a crypt and a half, probably even a crypt and three quarters; definitely worth the visit even if you happen to be in some other part of Paris. It's fin-de-siecle decadence at the heaviest and most incense-saturated* level. Art Nouveau motifs - friezes of chickens, mulberry leaves with their silkworms, mad dogs and very unhappy-looking rabbits, garlands of hops and grapes to reflect the fermentation discoveries - all done in a Byzantine style of domes, decorated in mosaic front to back and floor to ceiling with the ceilings done in gold, and with much more obviously Byzantine and explicitly Catholic crucifixes and alpha-omega motifs on the three-part dome above the altar at the back of the crypt.

* only metaphorical incense, no actual censers present
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