Rabies is among the most terrifying viruses to get. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.” (Really: there have been fewer than 10 documented cases of survival once symptoms appear.) Luckily for us—and our pets—Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine that can stop things from getting to that point.
The first time the vaccine was ever administered to a human being–on this day in 1885–was by Pasteur himself. Knowing that the disease was otherwise fatal, both doctor and patient (or, rather, patient’s mother) were willing to risk whatever harm might come from the injection, which had only been tested on dogs.
As TIME recounted in 1939:
One hot July morning in 1885, feverish little JosephMeister was dragged by his frantic mother through the streets of Paris in search of an unknown scientist who, according to rumors, could…
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