I have been reading Noonan's book New Brewing Lager Beer again, and I ran across something that I seem to have missed in previous readings. In the section on yeast he mentions some names I don't recall from the original discoveries and research into yeast during the 1800s.
If you have done any reading on beer and yeast research (heck if you live in the world) you already know a little about the work of Louis Pasteur. Before he began his study of milk he was doing research into the spoilage bacteria for beer. The interesting thing to note is that he was basing his work on the work of another chemist. A man named Eilhard Mitscherlich.
Dr. Mitscherlich was a chemist that spent much of his life proving a number of different theories. Studies into Isomorphism (the look into this is way nerdier than even I want to be right now) comprised much of his work into inorganic chemistry. This of course is not quite as important to brewers or brewing science. What is important is his work in organic chemistry. He developed a theory called the "contact" that proved the existence of the microorganisms we know today as yeast. He was the first scientist to accept "Cagniard de La Tour’s assertion that yeast is a microorganism."
It was through pioneers like this that we now have modern brewing. Sometimes you have to wonder what they might have been thinking. On the cusp of greatness probably not even realizing that they are revolutionizing a piece of the world.
I think I might have a pint...