GALVESTON — Louis Pasteur, a trailblazing scientist of the 19th century, would be pleased at the 2014 Trailblazer Award won by the Moody Medical Library’s Truman G. Blocker Jr. History of Medicine Collections at the at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Pasteur’s pioneering work in chemistry and microbiology proved without a doubt the “germ theory” of disease, and demonstrated how the organisms responsible for the spoilage of agricultural products and the transmission of disease in them could be controlled through a process of heating and sealing.
That process, now universally known as pasteurization, probably saved the French wine and dairy industries as viable commercial enterprises, and, more importantly, curbed the spread of food-borne diseases such as cholera.
In 1859, Pasteur wrote to the inspector general of the Ecole Normale, where he worked in Paris, urging the establishment of a series of publications that would make the papers of the professors and scientists at the institute readily available to other scientists in the field and to the public at large.
“Nothing in it would not be useful, honorable for the school and the university,” Pasteur wrote.
His idea has been updated for the 21st century at the Blocker Collections, which houses the most significant collection of Pasteur’s papers and artifacts outside of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
His letter of 1859, among others in the Blocker Collections, is accessible today online at Louis Pasteur Collection, digitized, translated and even available as a narrated recording featured as a downloadable audio file.
“We wanted to make this collection available not only to scholars but to students of all ages, from elementary school kids through undergraduates,” said Bobby Marlin, archivist at the Blocker Collections.
“We feel that this access to the thoughts of real scientists at a particular moment in history can convey the excitement of scientific work, and perhaps inspire young people to go into it.”
The Moody Medical Library received federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under a contract with the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library to digitize and translate items from this collection.
As part of the project, the team digitized 22 unique items and translated 12 handwritten letters into English; these items, as well as a bibliography of secondary resources and information about other physical items in the collection, are available on the Blocker Collections website.
The project included the research, writing, editing and design of an exhibit standing in the Blocker Collections on the third floor of the Moody Medical Library.
The exhibit displays archival materials and a timeline that puts Pasteur’s work in the context of a revolutionary period in medical science.
This earned the project the Texas Digital Library Trailblazer Award presented April 28 at the Texas Conference on Digital Libraries in Austin. The Trailblazer Award is given annually to those working in Texas academic libraries that have used limited resources in innovative ways to create, maintain or support digital libraries.