For many discoveries in history, the originator was ridiculed and became an outcast. Often it was generations after the discovery before it became accepted as true. Think about the following:
In 1856, Louis Pasteur received a visit from the owner of a factory that made alcohol from sugar beets. The owners problem was that many of his vats of fermented beer were turning sour and, as a result, had to be thrown away. From a business point of view, this was a disaster. The owner asked Pasteur to find out why this was happening.
After using a microscope to analyze samples from the vats, Pasteur found thousands of tiny micro-organisms. He became convinced that they were responsible for the beer going sour. Pasteur believed that they caused the putrefaction of the beer not that they were the result of the putrefaction.
Pasteur continued his work on this theme by studying other liquids such as milk, wine and vinegar. In 1857, he was appointed Director of Scientific Studies at the Ecôle Normale in Paris. Between 1857 and 1859, Pasteur became convinced that the liquids he had studied were being contaminated with microbes that floated in the air. The medical establishment ridiculed him: How could something so small that it was invisible cause medical problems? Pasteur was seeing things that werent there! He had a wild imagination!
Pasteur was vilified in public but rather than give up, he determined to fight for what he believed in. Pasteur started to devise tests to prove that he was right.
In April 1864, Pasteur explained his beliefs in front of a gathering of famous scientists at the University of Paris. He proved his case beyond doubt even if some of those present refused to believe him.
For the next twenty years, Pasteur conducted further research and experiments with the belief that injecting specific viruses into people, it would prevent them from getting that disease. For this concept, Pasteur was ridiculed even more.
Think about this concept: To prevent someone from getting Small Pox, for example, inject them with Small Pox cultures.
In April 1881, Pasteur announced that his team had found a way to weaken anthrax germs and so could produce a vaccine against it. Despite his fame, there were still those in the medical world who mocked Pasteur.
The editor of "The Veterinary Press" in 1882 challenged Pasteur to a public test of his anthrax vaccine. The tests were held in May 1882. Sixty sheep were used in the test. Pasteur kept ten as they were and divided the other fifty into two groups of twenty-five. One group was inoculated with his vaccine while twenty-five were not. All fifty were then injected with the anthrax virus. Those that were not inoculated died within two days. The inoculated group suffered no ill-effects. They proved that Pasteur was not exaggerating the powers of his vaccine. The Times in Great Britain called Pasteur "one of the scientific glories of France".
Pasteur and his team turned next to the disease of rabies. Most human victims of rabies died a painful death and the disease appeared to be getting more and more common in France. Though the team could not identify the germ, they did find that the rabies germ attacked the nervous system only after it had made its way to the brain. The team traced the germ to the brain and spinal cord of infected animals and by using dried spinal cords, they produced a vaccine for rabies. The vaccine was first tried out on animals.
Pasteur injected clean animals with the rabies germ found in spinal cord that was fourteen days old. At this age, the germ was relatively weak and unlikely to threaten the life of the animals. He then used spinal cords that were thirteen days old, twelve days etc. on the animals until they were injected with the most virulent germ found in infected spinal cord that was fresh. All survived this. But Pasteur faced a serious problem. What worked on animals might not work on humans.
In 1885, a young boy, Joseph Meister, had been bitten by a rabid dog, and was brought to Pasteur. The boy almost certainly would have died an agonizing death if nothing was done so Pasteur took the risk on using his untested vaccine.
The boy survived and Pasteur knew that he had found a vaccine for rabies. Three months later, when he examined Meister again, Pasteur reported that the boy was in good health.
Ironically, though Pasteur and his team knew that the vaccine worked, no one then in the world of science knew how it worked!