HistoryBuff.com April 2010 Newsletter
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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 owner’s 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 weren’t 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!

Topsy-turvy Winter

Last issue I wrote a short article about how in December 1815 and January 1816 the deep southern states received several inches of snow and was below freezing for most of those two months. On the other hand, the northern states received temperatures in the 80s for most of the same two months. I asked the question, how could this happen? Two subscribers provided me with likely causes.

Sharolyn Shayk provided this link for an explanation of "Little Ice Ages:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTqUJNxofIg

Gary J. Mallast provided this information: "With regard to the topsy-turvy weather of 1816, what happened is that a volcano, Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, blew up in 1815 dumping inconceivable amounts of ash and gases into the air.

This event led to one of the great legends involving Ameica's oldest periodical, The Old Farmer's Almanac.

The story goes the almanac’s founder and first editor, Robert B. Thomas, was in bed with a flu when the 1816 edition “went to bed” in late 1815. Supposedly, as a joke, the printer or a smart-aleck printer’s devil, changed the forecast for the week of the Fourth of July to 'snow.'

When Thomas got out of his sick bed, and found out about the error, he tried to destroy all the 'snow' copies, but some got out anyway, leading to a good bit of razzing by Thomas’s friends. However when it DID snow in July, 1816, naturally Thomas took credit for his “correct” forecast.

Long time Old Farmer’s Almanac owner and editor, Judson Hale, admitted that every time he heard of a copy of the 1816 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac at a rare book sale, in an archive, or even spontaneously sent in by a reader, he immediately looked to the July forecasts. But he never did find an 1816 'snow' issue.

See, Judson Hale, Editor, The Best of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1992, Yankee Publishing, Inc., p. 15."

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March Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: What were Conestoga wagons named after?

ANSWER: The Conestoga region of Pennsylvania

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: What was Annie Oakley's real name?

ANSWER: Phoebe Ann Mosey

One-hundred-thirty-five people entered the contests. Forty-seven people had errors in their entry. Most of the errors had either the incorrect subject heading or failure to pick a prize if they won. All prizes were awarded.

The March Contest Winners Were:
  • Linda - Florida
  • Ann Thomas - Maryland
  • Linda Evans - Wisconsin
  • Casey Dorion - Minnesota
  • Mr. Carl G. DalBon - Connecticut
  • Joe Roll - Michigan

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Who was the British King during the Revolutionary War?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Which ex sheriff of Dodge City ended his working career as a sports writer for a New York newspaper?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Friday, April 16, 2010. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 48 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. (Since Contest One only has one prize offered, there is no need to select a Contest One prize.)

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SIX will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
April Contest One Prize

DVD: 200 Classic Cartoons

Casper - Popeye - Mighty Mouse, Betty Boop
Three Stooges - Felix the Cat - Woody Woodpecker
And More - Almost 22 Hours!

April Contest Two Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

DVD Movie

Pot O Gold (1941)
Staring Jimmy Stewart & Paulette Goddard


The Beverly Hillbillies

Classic Episodes of the 1960s TV Series

Original Historic Newspapers

Original The Evening Gazette (Boston) historic newspaper from 1825

The Daily Globe (Washington City) historic newspaper from 1857

Original Providence Evening Press historic newspaper from 1860
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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