Louis Pasteur, the Australasian rabbit plague, and a ten million dollar prize
WINNER, QUEENSLAND PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS 2009, for a work of literary merit in the science writing category.
SHORTLISTED, VICTORIAN PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS 2009
‘From the author of Captain Bligh’s Other Mutiny comes another exciting account of an amazing episode in our history’ – National Library of Australia, Spring 2008 Newsletter
‘Pasteur’s Gambit is a fantastic story made better by the fact that it is true. Dando-Collins has uncovered a story very few people knew anything about, gone on to research rich untapped material, and skillfully laid it out. The result is part science, part history, sprinklings of drama and ultimately a real adventure’ – Professor Tony Peacock, Canberra University
‘A fascinating tale of 19th century politics, intrigue, scientific skulduggery and romance that lay forgotten for 120 years until author Stephen Dando-Collins came along… Far from a dusty, scientific approach, his yarn gallops along at a cracking pace’ – Herald Sun, Melbourne
‘Reads like a thriller… Part of the success of this book is the way Dando-Collins presents Loir as a man of great loyalty and charm’ – Sunday Tasmanian
‘Frankly, I had no idea that Pasteur had so much trouble raising the money for the Pasteur Institute. The generally held notion is that the crowned heads of Europe fell all over themselves to pay homage and grant funds – clearly far from the truth! And I had only the vaguest knowledge of the early origins of the Pasteur Institute in Sydney and of the potential contributions to the rabbit plague. So from every point of view I am much in your debt’ – Professor Sir Gustav Nossal, in a letter to the author
‘An amazing book!’ – Richard Fidler, Conversations, ABC Radio
International Intrigue Extraordinaire! A story of science, sabotage and scandal on Australia’s rabbit-infested shores
In 1887, the desperate NSW Government of Sir Henry Parkes advertised an international competition for a biological cure for the rabbit plague then ravaging the farms of Australia and New Zealand. The competition, with a prize equivalent to $10 million today, would attract 1500 entries, and would generate a sensational episode in Australasian history that combined science, subterfuge, and scandal.
In Paris, famous biologist Dr. Louis Pasteur, struggling to raise the funds to open his prestigious Pasteur Institute, saw the Australasian rabbit competition as the answer to his financial prayers. For, Pasteur was convinced he had the biological remedy to the rabbit plague.
To Australia came Pasteur’s dashing 24-year-old nephew, Adrien Loir, sent to prove Pasteur’s remedy and return home within six weeks with the prize money. But Pasteur had not reckoned on sabotage by his greatest scientific rival, or on the self interest of the competition’s Australian and New Zealand judges, or the private agendas of local politicians. Young Loir, determined not to fail his uncle, was in for the fight of his life.
Featuring a cast of characters ranging from great names in science including Pasteur and his great German rival Robert Koch, to legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt and fast-talking Sydney larrikin John McGarvie-Smith, Pasteur’s Gambit is the previously untold true story of an amazing episode in both scientific and national history.
Vintage Australia (Random House). Paperback. ISBN 978-1-74166-703-5