PASTEUR, Louis. Autograph letter signed ("L. Pasteur"), to Sir Saul Samuel, Paris, 1 March 1889. One page, 8vo, small spike hole along left margin. Matted and framed.
PASTEUR TRIES FOR A RABBIT-KILLING £25,000 PRIZE IN AUSTRALIA
Money and science mix in this fine, late Pasteur letter, as he worries over his chances to win an Australian competition to devise a potent rabbit killing virus. "I would be most obliged," he tells Samuel, "if you would forward the attached telegram [not included] to the government of Sydney. I would be equally grateful if you would send me, as soon as you've received it, the report of the Sydney government's commission on rabbits. I beg you to be so good as to acknowledge receipt, and to inform me of the date on which you transmit the telegram."
In August 1887, the government of New South Wales announced a prize of £25,000 for the scientist who could propose a successful plan to eradicate the exploding rabbit population. Pasteur joined the competition, hoping his pasteurella multocida, a chicken cholera virus, would do the trick. The Sydney government formed a "Rabbit Commission" to evaluate the entries, and they chose Rodd Island as a sufficiently isolated and secure site for testing the proposed viruses. Conflicts arose between Pasteur's team and the Rabbit Commission over what kind of experiments to perform, and over the efficacy of Pasteur's toxin. Here, Pasteur shows that he's gotten wind of an early draft of the Commission's critical report, finding that Pasteur's chicken cholera virus was not sufficiently contagious among rabbits and that it posed a threat to bird life. A final report issued in December found that none of the entrants had devised a sufficient remedy. Nobody won the money!