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Gerald L. Geison

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Gerald L. Geison
Born(1943-03-26)March 26, 1943
DiedJuly 3, 2001(2001-07-03) (aged 58)
Alma materYale University
Beloit College
Scientific career
InstitutionsPrinceton University

Gerald Lynn Geison (March 26, 1943 – July 3, 2001) was an American historian who died at 58.[1][2]

Opinions on his work[edit]

  • "His biography of Pasteur was viewed as an outstanding work of scholarship which penetrated the secrecy that had surrounded much of the legendary scientist's laboratory work. Geison used Pasteur's laboratory notebooks and published papers to described some of the most famous episodes in the history of science—including their darker sides, such as the human risks entailed in Pasteur's haste to develop the rabies vaccine. A reviewer wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that the book 'requires us to reevaluate our heroes and consider the complexities of science instead of merely clinging to comforting and heroic myths.' [3]"
  • "A quite different (from Bruno Latour's) approach to Pasteur has recently been taken by Gerald L. Geison in The Private Science of Louis Pasteur. Geison utilizes the French national hero’s private laboratory notebooks to reveal striking discrepancies between them and his public pronouncements. Although Geison’s aim is not to detract from Pasteur’s greatness as a scientist, but rather to present a “Pasteur for our times,” his book has been criticized by scientists who apparently feel that any de-hagiographication of this towering figure amounts to an attack on science as such[4]"
  • "the finally published book of the only historian really specialized in the history of Pasteur.[5]"
  • Max Perutz came to a very unfavorable conclusion about Geison's life of Pasteur: "Toppling great men from their pedestals, sometimes on the slenderest of evidence, has become a fashionable and lucrative industry, and a safe one, since they cannot sue because they are dead. Geison is in good company, but he, rather than Pasteur, seems to me guilty of unethical and unsavory conduct when he burrows through Pasteur’s notebooks for scraps of supposed wrongdoing and then inflates these out of all proportion, in order to drag Pasteur down. In fact, his evidence is contrived, and does not survive scientific examination." New York Review of Books, December 21, 1995
  • In a 1999 article[6] and a 2003 book,[7] D. Raynaud concludes that the apology for Félix Pouchet presented by John Farley and Geison in their 1974 article on the controversy between Pouchet and Pasteur is futile.
  • In a work published in 2019, Joseph Gal, of the University of Colorado Denver, concludes that Geison's criticisms of Pasteur's work on the chirality of molecules are "entirely without scientific basis".[8]


  1. ^ O'Connor, Anahad (July 12, 2001). "Gerald L. Geison, 58, Historian Who Found a Flawed Pasteur". New York Times.
  2. ^ Lesch, John E. (2004). "Eloge: Gerald Lynn Geison, 1943–2001". Isis. 95 (3): 449–451. doi:10.1086/428965. S2CID 143770615.
  3. ^ Necrology of the Princeton University, online
  4. ^ Söderqvist, T.; Stillwell, C. (1999). "Essay Review: The Historiography of Immunology is Still in Its Infancy". Journal of the History of Biology. 32 (1): 205–215. doi:10.1023/A:1004654415985. PMID 11623813. S2CID 22176341.
  5. ^ Bruno Latour, Pasteur : guerre et paix des microbes, Paris, 2001, p. 10.
  6. ^ Dominique Raynaud, "La correspondance de F.-A. Pouchet avec les membres de l'Académie des Sciences: une réévaluation du débat sur la génération spontanée", European Journal of Sociology, 1999, 40 (2), p. 257-276, online.
  7. ^ Dominique Raynaud, Sociologie des controverses scientifiques, Paris, PUF, 2003, p. 45-80.
  8. ^ Joseph Gal, "In defense of Louis Pasteur: Critique of Gerald Geison's deconstruction of Pasteur's discovery of molecular chirality", Chirality, January 31, 2019, online.