Lot 289: ALS in French, signed "L. Pasteur," one page, 5 x 8.25, February 11, 1849. Letter to a fellow scientist, in full (translated): "You were kind to promise Mr. Teusch, who obligingly wrote to you about this matter, that, if I was in urgent need of racemic, you would let me have some. This is why, sir, I have made this request, I have been pursuing extensive research on that acid for years. I am honoured to send you the first account which I have published on the crystalline forms of the racimates or paratartrates, an account which I would very much like to continue. You would render a great service to myself and, I think, to science, by being kind enough to send me a few pounds of this acid. I will pay you the price that you indicate. Receive, the assurance of my deepest respect and my most sincere appreciation." Addressed on the reverse in an unknown hand. In fine condition, with intersecting folds and trivial wear to corners.As a graduate assistant under Antoine Balard, 26-year-old Pasteur began studying tartaric and paratartaric (racemic) acids with the intention of crystallizing a number of different compounds. In spite of their identical chemical compositions, Pasteur found that one was able to rotate a beam of polarized light and the other could not, convincing him that their internal structures were different. Through careful examination he ascertained that while every tartaric crystal looked the same, the paratartrate crystals bore two types that were the mirror image of the other. Pasteur's groundbreaking work with racemic acid and the discovery of asymmetry in organic molecules would earn him a prize of 1,500 francs by the Pharmaceutical Society in 1853. An interesting letter in which Pasteur, as the newly appointed chair of chemistry at Strasbourg University, seeks further samples for his important work on crystallography.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 467
Wednesday, 13th January 2016
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