Joseph Meister was the first person to be inoculated against rabies by Louis Pasteur, and the first person to be supposedly successfully treated for the infection.
In 1885, nine-year-old Meister was badly bitten by a supposedly rabid dog. After consulting with Alfred Vulpian and Jacques-Joseph Grancher and obtaining their assistance, Louis Pasteur agreed to inoculate the boy with spinal tissue from rabid rabbits, which he had successfully used to prevent rabies in dogs. The treatment was successful and the boy did not develop rabies.
As an adult, Meister served as a caretaker at the Pasteur Institute until his death in 1940 at age 64. On 24 June 1940, ten days after the German army occupied Paris during World War II, Meister committed suicide with his gas gun.
Although often repeated, the version of his suicide stating he chose to take his life rather than allow the Wehrmacht to enter the Pasteurs' crypt is not sustainable. Instead, a contemporary journal article as well as the testimony of Meister's granddaughter indicate that, fearing for his family's safety, Meister asked them to leave, while he stayed behind to protect the Pasteur institute from the German soldiers.