3 People Who Probably Saved Your Life
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3 People Who Probably Saved Your Life

Have you ever saved someone’s life? Maybe you’ve pulled a kid out of the street
just in time, or fished a friend out of the river, or did the Heimlich maneuver on the
guy sitting next to you at the deli. There’s a small group of people in history
— let’s just call them what they were … nerds … whose scientific contributions have saved
— not that it’s a contest — like, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people over
time. Including you, probably. Now, this isn’t a comprehensive list or
anything. Frankly, history is full of life-saving, world-changing scientists. We just picked
three of them. And it’s important to remember that science
is both collaborative and cumulative — researchers work with a whole team of people, and build
on the work of those who came before them. No scientist is an island. But these are people who spearheaded both
simple and revolutionary discoveries, from proving that germs exist, to convincing doctors
to start washing their hands, to creating vaccines to stop common diseases. First up, the guy whose name you’ll find
on nearly every gallon of milk at the grocery store: Louis Pasteur, the founder of germ
theory and the father of microbiology. Born in rural France in 1822, as a kid Pasteur
was more interested in art than science, earning a Bachelor of Arts before turning his focus
to chemistry and physics. He liked the idea of putting science to practical
use in industry, and some of his early work focused on figuring out how to better manufacture
wine. Hey, it was France. Of course, people had been making alcoholic
beverages since practically forever, but it was Pasteur who gave us our modern understanding
of the fermentation process — he showed that it’s the action of living, multiplying microorganisms,
specifically yeast, that turns sugar into booze. That might be common knowledge today, but
back then, people didn’t know much — if anything — about microbes. There had been some speculation about what
we now call germ theory — the idea that microorganisms might cause some diseases and make food spoil. But the prevailing scientific theory of the
time was something called spontaneous generation, the notion that some organisms just sort of
appeared out of thin air, or came to life from decaying organic matter. I’m not kidding, for a long time people
thought baby mice came out of decaying hay, and maggots were born from rotting meat. Even after those specific things were disproven,
people still believed that spontaneous generation was a thing under certain circumstances. But not Louis. Building on the work of an 18th-century Italian
physiologist named Lazzaro Spallanzani and others, Pasteur conducted what ended up being
one of the most important experiments of all time. He boiled some broth in swan-necked flask,
effectively sterilizing it — so there were definitely no breeding bacteria or anything. The container allowed filtered air to enter
the flask, but would catch any microbes in the bend of the neck. Then he waited, and nothing happened — the
broth never spoiled, meaning microbes weren’t just appearing out of thin air. But, if he tipped the glass so that the broth
touched that filtering point in the neck that was catching all the microbes from the incoming
air, the broth quickly began to go bad. That one simple experiment showed that life
didn’t just spontaneously appear out of nothing, but there were microbes in the air
all around us. Basically: he proved that germ theory was
real. With his new-found understanding of microbes
in hand, Pasteur hit the bottles again, experimenting with techniques to keep wine and milk from
spoiling. Then, in 1862, he found that heating up wine
without actually boiling it would still kill bacteria and keep it from spoiling. That’s the process we now call pasteurization,
and it’s still used today to protect and preserve a number of foods, like milk and
other dairy products. By this point, Pasteur was in his mid-forties,
and he wasn’t doing too well, health-wise. He had a stroke and ended up partially paralyzed. Even so, he continued his experiments, and
went on to invent the first laboratory-developed vaccine, for chicken cholera. He then went on to create vaccines for more
diseases, like anthrax and rabies. The English doctor Edward Jenner, who died
about a month after Pasteur was born, had already discovered the smallpox vaccine in
the late 1790s. But it wasn’t until Pasteur proved germ
theory that people really began to understand how viruses and bacteria worked — and with
it, the real science behind vaccination. You really can’t oversell the importance
of getting the world on board with the idea that microbes can spread, causing infection
and disease, so the next time you crack open a nice bottle of wine, don’t forget to raise
a glass to Pasteur. In fact, Pasteur greatly influenced our next
legendary lifesaver, the British surgeon who completely transformed surgical practices
— or, as I like to think of him, the guy who finally got doctors to wash their hands. Joseph Lister started life in Essex, England
in 1827. He was born into a wealthy Quaker family,
and his father was an amateur scientist who helped design microscope lenses in his spare
time. Lister was interested in science from a young
age, and by college knew he wanted to both work as a surgeon, and do research to help
improve medical knowledge in general. Which, as it turns out, was desperately needed
at the time. Let me paint a little picture for you: You’re living in Europe in the mid 1800s.
You fall off a ladder and break your leg. Your friends throw you on a cart and wheel
you to the hospital. The doctor says they have to operate, and you don’t get any anesthesia
because it’s not really a thing yet. The surgeon walks in with dirty hands, unsterilized
equipment, and an apron he likes to keep stained and bloodied for the street cred. You pass out from the pain, and when you wake
up, your chances of surviving the coming infection are less than 50-50 on a good day, in a decent
hospital. That’s the world Lister walked into after
finishing his doctorate in the early 1850s. But don’t be too hard on the surgeons — this
was before Pasteur proved germ theory, and the common belief was that there wasn’t
much they could do, since some wounds just spontaneously generated infections. But Lister wondered if there actually was
a way to prevent those infections. He started noticing that patients with simple
fractures — where a broken bone didn’t pierce the skin — were far more likely to
recover than those with an open wound exposed to the air. This suggested that rather than springing
from the wound itself, infection must somehow get in from the outside, and he started washing
his hands and clothes before operating. Around that time, he became a professor of
surgery in Glasgow and read about Pasteur’s groundbreaking work on germ theory. It made a lot of sense to Lister. He figured that if outside germs were infecting
wounds, then killing those germs should — in theory — prevent infection. Now, Pasteur stopped wine and milk from spoiling
by heating them up, but it’s a lot harder to do that to human flesh. So Lister knew he needed to find the right
chemical disinfectant. He chose carbolic acid, otherwise known as
phenol, which is a kind of acid that’s extracted from coal tar. At the time, it was being used
to disinfect sewers. And in 1865, Lister began experimenting with
a diluted form of phenol, using it to sterilize his hands, instruments, wounds, and bandages.
He even sprayed it into the surrounding air. After collecting more than year’s worth
of data, he published a paper explaining his new antiseptic technique — one that had led
to a dramatic drop in post-operative patient deaths. But, like so many discoveries, his new protocol
was slow to gain traction — some doctors thought it was too slow and expensive, or
tried it but didn’t clean properly, so it didn’t work as well. Others still just didn’t believe in germs. But by 1880, after more than ten years of
incredible results, his antiseptic principle was nearly universally accepted. Lister continued to improve surgical practices
throughout his career — for example, he introduced stitches made from sterilized catgut, which
would dissolve instead of having to be pulled out. He went on to become Queen Victoria’s personal
surgeon, and won a bushel of prestigious honors, including a lordship, for his many contributions. And maybe most prestigious of all…Listerine
Mouthwash? That was named after him. That Pasteur-Lister one-two punch has probably
saved billions of lives over the last 150 years. Which brings us to our next science hero,
who took preventative life-saving to a whole new level with an arsenal of modern vaccines,
starting with the shots you probably got as a baby. Maurice Hilleman was born the youngest of
eight children on a Montana farm in 1919. His life got off to a rough start when his
mother and twin sister died during his birth, and he was raised on his uncle’s farm, tending
chickens and reading Charles Darwin. Then he went on to do some scientific research
of his own. By his mid-twenties, Hilleman had already
helped develop his first human vaccine, one designed to help protect overseas soldiers
from encephalitis. We’ve talked about how vaccines work before
— but in a nutshell, they trigger your immune system to make antibodies against a particular
disease, without actively making you ill with that disease. This creates a kind of memory for your immune
system, so if you run into that disease in the airport or lunchroom or whatever, your
immune system will be like, hey, I know you… and start cranking out antibodies to fight
it. Generally, to make a vaccine, you first have
to mass produce the virus or bacteria, by infecting cells grown in cultures, or sometimes
chicken eggs. Then, once you’ve got a good working supply,
you can work on weakening that pathogen to turn it into a vaccine. Basically you want to administer just enough
virus or bacteria to get the antibodies flowing, without getting anyone too sick. Hilleman was like, the Superman of this process. Through his research on the influenza virus,
he found that people did often develop an acquired immunity the the virus’s small
— but constantly evolving — mutations. They did that on their own, without a vaccine. But every now and again, the virus made a
major genetic leap — one big enough to leave people with no resistance, and putting the
population at risk for a wide-scale pandemic. For example, in 1957, Hilleman heard about
a really bad influenza outbreak in Hong Kong, and suspected a new strain was spreading. Once he and his colleagues got their hands
on a sample of the virus, they found that most people did, in fact, lack the necessary
antibodies to protect themselves from it. So, fearing the worst, Hilleman got a bunch
of manufacturers to immediately start cranking out a vaccine. Over the next two years, about two million
people died worldwide from that Asian flu. But the total would have been far higher without
Hilleman’s foresight and emergency vaccine. Around that time, Hilleman joined the Merck
pharmaceutical company and started developing new vaccines against common childhood diseases. For example, an American virologist named
John Enders had come up with a measles vaccine, but it proved too toxic to use. Hilleman developed an improved version by
growing a weaker strain in chicken embryos — and that vaccination alone is estimated
to save over a million lives every year. Then, Hilleman developed a mumps vaccination
by isolating the virus from a swab from his own daughter’s throat, and following the
same protocol he’d used on measles. Later he combined the two with a third one
for German measles, or rubella, creating the still popular MMR vaccine you probably, hopefully
got as a toddler. His team went on to develop many more vaccines,
including those for Hepatitis A and B, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia, and others. They also contributed to a bunch of other
major scientific breakthroughs, including isolating a new family of viruses — the adenovirus,
a common cause of upper respiratory infections in children and adults. And, like the work of Lister and Pasteur,
his research has since influenced generations of researchers, paving the way for more medical
breakthroughs and saving more lives. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this
show, just go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow
and subscribe!


  • Swisscheese13 Wyles

    One time when I was in middle school in the 8th grade at my school they have a giant ice box (don't remember what it was). And while I was getting a milk I picked up one that was old an expired, so when I put in my lunch number I told the teacher and their was about 3 to maybe 4 boxes full of old milk. So I basically saved people from getting sick from drinking the expired milk during breakfast.

  • Vidhya R

    I have one doubt.. Can you plz explain? Why saliva is so sticky and chill or cold, when we take from our mouth and why not it is hot?????

  • ffggddss

    Before watching, my guess for the 3 was Pasteur, Lister, and Fleming (discoverer of penicillin).
    Didn't know about Hilleman; guessing it might've been tough to choose between him and Fleming for this trio.


  • rightsdeup crocodile

    I’m not sure we can rule out spontaneous generation, I mean life came from somewhere in the beginning, so it might just be way less likely and common but possible

  • Lejla uwu

    I mean if they want street cred for having blood splattered clothes, I dont think they'd want to clean their hands..

  • Sean Remlinger

    Another topic: what vaccines are neccesary today?: of those which ones where developed at a time of necessity and others out of intrigue or human curiosity?

    I really love this channel and would gladly support it. Its direct and forward method brings important topics to the forefront of understanding; these presenters informs the general population clearly and effectively and can have a great impact if viewed and continually questioned. Pease continue making videos like these and maybe, just maybe, a part of humankind will remember and pursue a better future. Thank you

  • Noah McKee

    you should make an episode like this, but it focuses on people who made technological breakthroughs, that improved standards of living, instead of medical breakthroughs.

  • Jackson Mccreery

    Hey, can y'all do a video on the only well-known person to ever come out of my hometown of Jefferson, Ga, Crawford W. Long? He was the first guy to use anesthesia in surgery, since you brought up the concept of it here.

  • Thomas Drowry

    There is a story about Pasteur taking saliva from a rabid dog, using a syringe which he held in his mouth, while his assistants held the dog back.

  • The Coolest Corgi

    An interesting case study I found was a friend of mine whose family was prone to autism. His parents decided to just delay his vaccinations for a few years. But one day, he caught a strain of the flu. It was to bad, just standard fly symptoms, but after that, he began to socially regress, and Autism manifested itself. That case has led me to wonder if a strong immune response, or even certain antibodies could be one of the triggers of autism

  • zebooker

    CORRECTION: CATGUT – The on-screen note stated correctly this product is made, not from cats, but from sheep. Same caption got wrong WHICH PART OF THE SHEEP. It is SHEEP SINEW. I know this because I am a guitar nerd; sinews make better guitar strings, and even sutures, better than intestines ever have or will. Thanks for listening.

  • Princess YuBeace

    “some people just didnt believe in germs” that… pretty much sums up medical history, stuff gets explained and people still aint too sure bout that

  • TacoTacoTacoTaco

    Scientists still believe in spontaneous generation in a way. It's just called abiogenesis, and happened over the course of billions of years.

  • Ella Larkin

    I think it is a good idea to vaccinate against chickenpox. People sometimes forget that if someone gets chickenpox. that person can get shingles later on. Shingles causes extreme pain with many complications and can sometimes be a killer.

  • A Nerd with a Switch

    My AP World class had a Most Influential Person in the World Tournament, where we each represented a few people from history and argued that they were more influential than our opponent, and we got extra credit for winning arguments. I chose Copernicus, Einstein, and Pasteur, the first of which I lost in a play-in round to Clara Barton (only by one vote though (the class voted)), I won against Charlemagne with Einstein by a landslide, and then promptly lost to Muhammad by a few votes in the next round. Pasteur, who I thought wouldn't make it that far at first because, as influential as he was, no one in the class had heard of him, made it past Carnegie in a play-in round, before beating Gandhi in round one, Zoroaster in round two, and Edison in round three before finally being beaten by Steve Jobs in the final eight.

    tl;dr: Louis Pasteur was really freaking influential, especially considering that I was able to convince my classmates of it.

  • a rcs

    Vaccines are at best crutches for those whose immune systems aint up to the task of fighting the war on….really tiny things that hurt humans, sleriously, teach your I.S. some of that tharn matrix gung fu, like "ka-pow" to the .. face of disease, and some "sha-zamm!" , zap, blam, huzzah, judo-chop1🤗

  • Ella Rose

    I love this – we always think of doctors and nurses as the sole ppl who save lives, and whilst it’s true they do they’re not the only ones and science needs more funding

  • TheNecroticRaptor


    (I don't hate vegans but you get the picture)

  • Ted Phillips

    Pasteur – great insight.
    Lister – as in Listerene – great as a floor cleaner.

    My choice would include the insufferable Robert Koch.

  • Joris Pattyn

    I am exasperated that a true real scientific channel keeps using factual misnomers. No (wo)man, no doctor, no scientist, no hero, no technique, an no whatsoever has ever SAVED a life. The only thing them, or one can do is PROLONGING (a)life. Second law of thermodynamics, remember. It's about time society gets the notion again that all life ends. Somehow, sometime.

  • vaccinefraud

    Jenner was shown to be a fraud by his own material in 1889 by Edgar Crookshank. The British Government signed on to the fraud making it a criminal conspiracy and crimes against the biosphere. An official Lie so that your list of references are evidence of co-conspiracy. Pasteur FORCED rabies into other animals in order to 'attenuate' the organism. EVERYONE knows that when you cross special boundaries it makes an organism MORE PATHOGENIC.

    Who writes these scripts?
    You can't KILL these organisms.

    Heat makes E. coli adopt a hibernation state. The flask test of Pasteur was just destroyed by that small revelation. Arsenic, and later Penicillin for Syphilis didn't "KILL" it, the process turned it into a cell-wall deficient form so that since the time of Jenner scraping the pus from genitals of animals into people Syphilis is probably a CWD disease in every human on the planet. This would account for vaccine insanity since these people are suffering from neurosyphilis or neuroborelliosis. You can't "KILL" a virus by cooking it with formaldehyde like Sorcerer Salk claimed. The formaldehyde just flops off and the feces bugs now swim free in the victim, along with Henrietta Lacks' black cervical cancer (classified as a brand new lifeform) and monkey feces viruses like SV40 to exchange CANCER and other dreaded diseases for the ones supposedly taken away by vaccines.
    The very Meme: Vaccines have saved millions of lives is proof of concept of embedded mindcontrol of all who say it with kneejerk reaction without investigating a single thing I have put here.
    Lister got people to wash their hands? Are you insane, or is your script writer insane?
    Semmelweis told the murderers of the day to not do an autopsy then go immediately to delivering a baby because they were killing the babies. He was discredited, institutionalized and died of the very fever that he claimed the murderers were giving to the babies. Sounds like a Conspiracy to me. Conspiracy Theory, by the way, is the FOUNDATION of criminal law and must be established in order to demonstrate: Means, Motive and Opportunity.
    Hilleman? Are you kidding me? Did Merck write this script for you? Heres what he admitted that he gave you:


    Material like this is either put together by useful idiots or the authors of the disaster. Iatrogenic disease is the #3 killer in North America. When you consider that vaccines cause cancer and heart disease then nearly ALL disease is caused by vaccines and 'modern medcine'. Since this is a criminal conspiracy you might want to reconsider your alignment with the crime.

  • Bible Info 1000 Different Bible Playlist Subjects

    Leviticus 1513 And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.3000 YEAR AGO GOD TOLD US THIS IN THE BIBLE  ( RUNNING WATER )

  • Mario Peter

    Were the entire scientific community against him when he he disagreed with the theory of'spontaneous generation? I'm a layman looking for answers. Please enlighten me…

  • cameron taylor

    I love how they are all white! 😂😂😂 the white man destroys/steals all the wisdom from Africa/Egyptian civilization screwing humanity into a dark age… then creates an entire timeline of worldwide “discoveries/inventions” all to take credit for knowledge that already existed and was stolen from BLACK/ASIAN tribes!

  • Brian F P

    Why does this video talk about Joseph Lister without mentioning Ignaz Semmelweiss? Considering that by the time Joseph Lister was first making his initial "discovery" Ignaz had already discovered the link between doctors washing hands and a drastic reduction in the onset of infection, had performed studies at the hospital he worked in, campaigned (at first unsuccessfully) for the widespread institution of a hand washing policy, had gotten the policy accepted at his hospital, had then been removed from his position due to doctor and nurse backlash, been detained in a mental institution, and had been dead for between 5 and 10 years before Joseph Lister made his "revolutionary discovery". To quote Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further than most, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants"

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