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Louis Pasteur Park

Louis Pasteur Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Located on 52nd Avenue between 248th Street and Marathon Parkway, this park honors the extraordinary achievements of pioneering French microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). The son of a tanner, Pasteur was raised in Arbois, France. He received his primary education at the Royal College of Besancon, which awarded him the bachelier des lettres in 1840 and the baccalaureat des sciences in 1842. In 1854, Pasteur’s began his life’s work in Lille, France, an area known for its wineries. The budding scientist developed an intense interest in the process of alcohol fermentation. In 1857, following three years of experiments, he became the person first to conclude that fermentation, the process by which sugar becomes alcohol, results from the presence of microorganisms. Pasteur’s fermentation hypothesis, which today is known as germ theory, was the first to demonstrate experimentally the existence of microbes.

Pasteur’s discoveries revolutionized the practice of medicine. In 1865, an English surgeon, Lord Lister, recognized the applicability of Pasteur’s idea and developed the practice of sterilizing medical instruments. The process of pasteurization, named in Pasteur’s honor, was also developed during this period. Based on Pasteur’s discoveries, dairy experts recognized that milk (as well as other liquids) could be rid of disease-causing microbes by using short, high temperature heat treatments. Today, virtually all milk sold in the United States is pasteurized.

In June 1865, Pasteur visited southern France on an official government mission to investigate the diseased silkworms of the French silk industry. Within three years, the microbiologist had isolated the infecting bacteria, found a method for preventing contagion, and devised a system for detecting infected stock. These successes salvaged not only the French but also the worldwide silk industry.

In 1880, the world-renowned microbiologist focused his research on the cholera epidemic which had claimed 10 percent of France’s chicken population. Pasteur quickly deduced that if the population were inoculated with a weakened but living form of cholera, the chickens would be rendered immune. He called this revolutionary practice a vaccination. Five years later, Pasteur first used a vaccination on a human in order to save a nine-year-old boy from rabies. His vaccinations created a new form of preventative medicine that ultimately increased the average human life expectancy.

In 1954, Parks acquired this property and opened the playground four years later. Parks and the Board of Education jointly operate the playground in service of the adjacent Louis Pasteur School, JHS 67. Originally known as J.H.S. 67 Playground, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern assigned the property’s present name in March 1986. On September 15, 1987, following a $950,000 renovation, Louis Pasteur Park reopened. The improvements included the redesigning of the baseball field and sitting areas, the installation of new play equipment, the addition of safety surfacing, a spray shower, boccie courts, and game tables, and the restoration of the handball, basketball, and tennis courts.

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