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Lot 244

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Louis Pasteur Signed Bossuet Quote On Objectivity in Science

A stock card fully engrossed in French by scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), and signed by him as "L. Pasteur" at center. Written in Paris, France on December 31, 1887. The 25 words in Pasteur's hand consist mostly of a citation by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704), a Roman Catholic Bishop, theologian, and intellectual from the court of Louis XIV. Scrapbook album mounting traces verso, else near fine. 5" x 2.625."

The card is transcribed in full:

"'Le plus grand dérèglement de l'esprit, c'est de croire les choses parce qu'on veut qu'elles soient - ' (Bossuet)

L. Pasteur

Paris le 31 Décembre 1887."


"'The greatest aberration of the mind, is to believe things because one wants them to be - ' (Bossuet)

L. Pasteur

Paris 31 December 1887."

Pasteur has inscribed the first half of one of Bossuet's most famous quotations (the rest of the quote reads, " - not because one saw them have that effect.") This quote comes from Bossuet's "Traité de la Connaissance de L'Homme et de Soi-Même," or, "Treatise on the Knowledge of God and of One's Self" (1677). This was one of Pasteur's favorite works, and the scientist often quoted Bossuet's aphorism to illustrate the scientific imperative of objectivity. It was only through constant self-examination and second-guessing that the scientist could draw an unbiased conclusion based solely on evidence, and not upon the desired outcome. Many of Pasteur's contemporaries considered his outstanding track record of research discoveries as proof that he followed Bossuet's counsel.

Pasteur, a brilliant chemist and microbiologist, discovered that bacteria in liquids are destroyed by heating, a process called pasteurization in his honor. Pasteur also developed a vaccine for rabies. Beginning in 1880, he successfully inoculated animals for chicken cholera and anthrax and paved the way for mass immunizations. Pasteur remained head of the Pasteur Institute until his death in 1895.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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