Scientific exchange between the United States and the Institut Pasteur dates back more than a century, with American philanthropy playing a significant role in the Institut’s successes.
On December 1, 1885, just six months after Louis Pasteur treated his first rabies patient, Joseph Meister, four boys from Newark, New Jersey, were bitten by a dog suspected to be rabid (see above photos).
A well-known physician, Dr. William O’Gorman, recommended that the children be sent to Pasteur for treatment and issued his appeal:
“I have such confidence in the preventive forces of inoculation by mitigated virus that were it my misfortune to be bitten by a rabid dog, I would board the first Atlantic steamer, go straight to Paris and…place myself immediately in the hands of Pasteur….If the parents be poor, I appeal to the medical profession and to the humane of all classes to help send these poor children where there is almost a certainty of prevention and cure.”
— New York Herald, December 4, 1885
In response to this appeal, contributions from people of all means began to arrive, from the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and a former Secretary of State, to four-year-old girls from the boys’ Newark neighborhood. In a matter of days, the fund had amassed $1,000 and the four boys left for Paris to be treated by Louis Pasteur.
With the same cooperative spirit, the Institut Pasteur, during World War I, played an active role in the preparation and supply of vaccines and serums to the American Army and American Red Cross; some 800,000 doses were given to Allied Forces free of charge.
To this day, the Institut Pasteur continues to welcome thousands of American researchers. Through programs such as the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, the Foundation perpetuates this tradition of scientific exchange.
Pasteur Foundation Origins: The Rapkine Fund
The precursor to the Pasteur Foundation, the Rapkine French Scientist Fund was established in 1951 to honor the memory and work of Pasteur scientist Louis Rapkine (1904-1948).
In the 1940s Rapkine worked with the Rockefeller Foundation in New York to save an elite corps of French scientists from wartime persecution. Thanks to his efforts, some 30 scientists and their families successfully emigrated.
To help rebuild the scientific community in post-war France, the Rapkine Fund was established to purchase scientific materials and provide general support for French scientists.
The Rapkine Fund immediately established an enduring tradition of American philanthropic giving to the Institut Pasteur. In 1985, the name of the Rapkine Fund was changed to the Pasteur Foundation. The spirit of Rapkine, scientific support, and exchange continues through the work of the Pasteur Foundation, thanks to the generosity of our donors.