The Rabies Vaccine – Introduction
The news that Louis Pasteur had successfully prepared the first anti-rabies vaccine, on November 26th, 1885, was received by the Ottoman scientific community with great enthusiasm. Until then, the unsolvable problem of rabies had troubled the Ottoman Empire for centuries. In the wake of Pasteur’s momentous discovery, Sultan Abdulhamid II quickly dispatched a delegation of Ottoman medical doctors to Paris to learn about the vaccine.
The small delegation of two Ottoman medical doctors and a veterinarian, led by Dr. Zoeros Pasha, a professor at the Imperial Medical School, reached Paris on June 8th, 1886. There they presented Louis Pasteur with the medal of Order of the Medjidie, a prestigious military and knightly honour, on behalf of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The sultan also donated the vast amount of 10,000 Francs to the Pasteur Institute.
In Paris, the doctors were invited by the Pasteur Institute to witness the vaccination of 50 to 80 people, a process which lasted for 10 days. Yet, the Ottoman physicians were not the only ones witnessing the procedure. The Institute shared its discoveries with scientists from the world over, who came to Paris to view this great leap forward. The only people not welcome were the Germans – a traditional archnemesis of France.
Over a period of two months, Dr. Zoeros Pasha and his colleagues, Dr. Hüseyin Remzi and Hüsnü Bey, a professor of veterinary medicine, studied the new methods for administering the vaccine at the Pasteur Institute. This was followed by further months touring other major Parisian health institutes. The delegation returned by boat to Istanbul, in December 1886, together with inoculated rabbits, which they brought from France to produce their own batches of rabies vaccine.
Dr. Hüseyin Remzi became a specialist in various of the latest vaccines, while Dr. Zoeros established himself as the first Ottoman specialist in the rabies vaccine. Shortly after the Imperial Rabies and Bacteriology Laboratory, was founded, being one of the first such institutions in the world. The first vaccination employing the Pasteur procedure in the Ottoman Empire was performed on June 3rd, 1887, a year and a half after its discovery.
Zoeros Pasha held the title of head of the institute until 1899. In the decades following its foundation, the institute performed innumerable important research projects and made groundbreaking discoveries that revolutionized science and medicine in the Ottoman Empire.
References: Suheyl UNVER, ‘Lettres et cartes de visite de Pasteur retrouvées à Istanbul’,
Histoire des sciences médicales, t.4, no.2 (1970), pp.
Shortly after returning to Istanbul from heading of an imperial investigative delegation to the Pasteur Institute, in Paris, Dr. A. Zoéros Pasha gave an important speech on the rabies vaccine at the Imperial School of Medicine. It presents an insider’s account of Pasteur’s discoveries, the history of the rabies disease and the importance of the immune system of plants, animals and humans. The largest part of the presentation is dedicated to the discovery of the vaccine, its benefits and success.
A preserved letter from Louis Pasteur to Dr. Zoeros, dated April 20th, 1887, indicates that during the period of the speech, the two scientists maintained close contact (UNVER 1970, p. 110), sharing the latest information on the vaccine.
Worldcat lists only a single example (BM Lyon, under the title M. Pasteur et ses découvertes. La Méthode préventive contre la Rage).
References: OCLC: 405213608. Cf. Suheyl UNVER, ‘Lettres et cartes de visite de Pasteur retrouvées à Istanbul’, Histoire des sciences médicales, t.4, num.2 (1970), pp. 108-111. (online source : HSMx1970x004x002x0108.pdf (parisdescartes.fr)).