Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/146

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

who, however keen and clever as observers, are not rigidly-trained experimenters. These alone are aware of the precautions necessary in investigations of this delicate kind. In reference, then, to the life of the wine-vat, what is the decision of experiment when carried out by competent men? Let a quantity of the clear, filtered "must" of the grape be boiled, so as to destroy such germs as it may have contracted from the air or otherwise. In contact with germless air the uncontaminated must never ferments. All the materials for spontaneous generation are there, but so long as there is no seed sown there is no life developed, and no sign of that fermentation which is the concomitant of life. Nor need you resort to a boiled liquid. The grape is sealed by its own skin against contamination from without. By an ingenious device, Pasteur has extracted from the interior of the grape its pure juice, and proved that in contact with pure air it never acquires the power to ferment itself, nor to produce fermentation in other liquids.[1] It is not, therefore, in the interior of the grape that the origin of the life observed in the vat is to be sought.

What, then, is its true origin? This is Pasteur's answer, which his well-proved accuracy renders worthy of all confidence: At the time of the vintage little microscopic particles are observed adherent, both to the outer surface of the grape and of the twigs which support the grape. Brush these particles into a capsule of pure water. It is rendered turbid by the dust. Examined by a microscope, these minute particles are seen to present the appearance of organized cells. Instead of receiving them in water, let them be brushed into the pure inert juice of the grape. Forty-eight hours after this is done, our familiar Torula is observed budding and sprouting, the growth of the plant being accompanied by all the other signs of active fermentation. What is the inference to be drawn from this experiment? Obviously that the particles adherent to the external surface of the grape are the veritable germs of that life which, after they have been sown in the juice, appears in such profusion. Wine is sometimes objected to on the ground that fermentation is "artificial;" but we notice here the responsibility of Nature. The ferment of the grape is in fact a parasite of the grape, and the art of the wine-maker from time immemorial has consisted in bringing—and it may be added, ignorantly bringing—two things thus closely associated by Nature into actual contact with each other. For thousands of years, what has been done consciously by the brewer has been done unconsciously by the wine-grower. The one has sown his leaven just as much as the other.

Nor is it necessary to impregnate the beer-wort with leaven to provoke fermentation. Abandoned to the contact of our common air,

  1. The liquids of the healthy animal body are also sealed from external contamination. Neither pure urine, collected fresh from the bladder, nor pure blood, drawn with due precautions from the veins, will ever putrefy in contact with pure air.