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In 1860, having helped France solve the problem of sour wine, chemist Louis Pasteur turns to the dangers of childbirth: 20,000 Paris women were dying annually. His germ theory and recommendation that doctors wash their hands and sterilize their instruments meet with derision in the academy, and the emperor himself orders Pasteur to be silent. Ten years later, needing cash to pay for war losses, the government finds that anthrax is killing herds everywhere in the country except Arbois: Pasteur is there, vaccinating sheep. Again the academy is dismissive. When Pasteur is vindicated, he turns his attention to hydrophobia. It is the Russians who realize his genius, and France finally honors him.