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In 1885, nine-year-old Meister was bitten by a rabid dog after provoking it by poking it with a stick. Despite the fact that he could have been prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license as he was not a medical doctor, Pasteur decided to treat the boy with a rabies virus vaccine grown in rabbits and weakened by drying, a treatment he had earlier tried on dogs. The treatment was successful and the boy did not develop rabies.
As an adult, Meister served as a caretaker at the Pasteur Institute until his death in 1940 at age 64. During the Nazi occupation of Paris, he committed suicide by shooting himself with his World War I service revolver.
Reportedly he chose to commit suicide rather than allow the Wehrmacht to enter the Pasteurs' crypt. However, Dr. Georges Cohen, who lived in the same Paris apartment building as Joseph Meister's son, related that although Meister did commit suicide in despondency over the German invasion, the suicide was not related to the burial crypt.
Meister was played by Dickie Moore in the 1936 film The Story of Louis Pasteur. The story of Meister's potentially dangerous inoculation against rabies by Pasteur was also featured in an episode of the TV series Dark Matters: Twisted But True.
Further reading 
- Gerald L. Geison. The Private Science of Louis Pasteur (Princeton University Press, 1995) (ISBN 0691034427)
- Asimov, Isaac. The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science. Basic Books, New York, 1965.
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