Chapter the Fourth

Mendel: Chapter 4

Solid Broth

It was a slightly incoherent Brother Matthew that the two friends eventually found in the temporary laboratory. He grabbed Mendel at the doorway and started babbling about sour bean soup and mounds of rods growing on solid beef broth, none of which made any sense until Mendel sat him down at the table and made him go over everything from the beginning.

"So you see," he finished, "if we solidify the broth and spread out the rods on the surface, they will not be able to move. If they grow into clusters we will be able to see them and lift them off in a pure state."
"One moment," said Brother Joseph, bringing the excitement down a notch, "how do we solidify the broth and how do we spread out the rods so that only one grows at a time?"
"Remember the fungus you showed us a few days ago?" exclaimed Brother Matthew, "that was growing on a solid surface made by gelatin from the meat roast. We must find a way of adding that solidifying principle to our broth."

"But," Mendel objected, "leaving a plate or bowl of solidified broth open to the air like that will cause it to become contaminated. Herr Pasteur has proved that spores of organisms float all around us. Even if we get our broth solid, it will still have to be sterilized and enclosed."
"We can do that," Brother Matthew insisted, refusing to be dissuaded by negativity. But Mendel was already thinking.
"I have an idea," he said, "But let's go about this systematically. First let us find out what we need to add to our broth to make it solid. Brother Matthew, go to your friend Brother Victor and see if he can help us. When we have the right mixture, we will experiment with ways of enclosing it so that it does not become contaminated."

"I think I have the answer to that one," said Brother Joseph, "have you heard of the Appert method?" To which he received two blank looks, so he continued, "Nicholas Appert has perfected a way of preserving food in sealed containers. He was a French chef working for the Revolutionary Government, and he has found a way of preventing food from spoiling by enclosing it in jars or bottles. I have read his book "The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years" which was published in 1811. We should be able to adapt Appert's basic discovery to our needs."

"Excellent," said Mendel, becoming excited himself, "you get ready to try the Appert method, Klacel, you find a solidifying agent, and I will investigate our next problem; how to kill the rods once we have isolated them."