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Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov

Born 16 May 1845
Ivanivka, Kupyanskyi Raion, Kharkiv Province, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died 15 July 1916 (aged 71)
Paris, France
Fields Microbiology
Alma mater Kharkiv University
University of Giessen
University of Göttingen
Munich Academy
Known for phagocytosis
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Medicine (1908)

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (Russian: Илья Ильич Мечников, Ukrainian: Ілля Ілліч Мечников) (16 May 1845 – 15 July 1916) was a Russian microbiologist best remembered for his pioneering research into the immune system. Mechnikov received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908, for his work on phagocytosis. He is also credited by some sources with coining the term "gerontology" in 1903, for the emerging study of aging and longevity.

Contents

Biography

Early years

Mechnikov was born in a village near Kharkov in the Russian Empire, the youngest son of Ilya Mechnikov, a Russian Imperial Guard, and Emilia Nevakhovich Mechnikov; his maternal grandfather Lev Nevakhovich was the first Russo-Jewish writer and founder of the Haskala movement in Russia. The family name Mechnikov is a translation from Romanian, since his father was a descendent from the Chancellor Yuri Stefanovich, the grandson of Nicolae Milescu. The word "mech" is a Russian translation of the Romanian "spadă", which is at the origin of Spătar. His elder brother Lev became a prominent geographer and sociologist. Mechnikov was raised predominantly by his Jewish mother, and developed a passion for natural history. When Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published, Ilya vehemently undertook the survival of the fittest, testing and teaching it.

He attended Kharkiv University where he studied natural sciences, completing his four-year degree in two years. He then went to Germany to study marine fauna on the small North Sea island of Heligoland and then at the University of Giessen, University of Göttingen and then at Munich Academy. In 1867 he returned to the Russian Empire to the appointment of docent at the new University of Odessa, followed by an appointment at the University of St. Petersburg. In 1870 he returned to Odessa to take up the appointment of Titular Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy.

Research

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov, by Nadar.
Illya Mechnikov.JPG

Mechnikov became interested in the study of microbes, and especially the immune system. In 1882 he resigned his position at Odessa University and set up a private laboratory at Messina to study comparative embryology, where he discovered phagocytosis after experimenting on the larvae of starfish. His theory—that certain white blood cells could engulf and destroy harmful bodies such as bacteria—met with scepticism from leading specialists including Louis Pasteur, Behring and others.

Mechnikov returned to Odessa as director of an institute set up to carry out Pasteur's vaccine against rabies, but due to some difficulties left in 1888 and went to Paris to seek Pasteur's advice. Pasteur gave him an appointment at the Pasteur Institute, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Mechnikov's work on phagocytes won him the Nobel Prize in 1908. He worked with Émile Roux on calomel, an ointment to prevent people from contracting syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease.

Mechnikov also developed a theory that aging is caused by toxic bacteria in the gut and that lactic acid could prolong life. Based on his theory, he drank sour milk every day. He wrote three books: Immunity in Infectious Diseases, The Nature of Man, and The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, the last of which, along with Metchnikoff's studies into the potential life-lengthening properties of lactic acid bacteria (LAB), inspired Japanese scientist Minoru Shirota to begin investigating the causal relationship between bacteria and good intestinal health, which eventually led to the worldwide marketing of Kefir and other fermented milk drinks, or probiotics.

Personal life

Mechnikov was married to his first wife Ludmilla Feodorovitch in 1863. She died from tuberculosis on 20 April 1873. Her death, combined with other problems, caused Mechnikov to unsuccessfully attempt suicide, taking a large dose of opium. He married again in 1875, to Olga Belokopytova who died in 1880 from typhoid. After her death, he made another failed attempt at taking his life by injecting himself with relapsing fever, from which he became very ill. He died in 1916 in Paris from heart failure.

Mechnikov as scientist. Publications

Bibliography on his life

  • Olga Metchnikoff, Vie d'Elie Metchnikoff, Hachette, Paris, 1920

External links


Simple English

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov
File:Ilja Iljič Meč
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov
BornMay 16, 1845
near Kharkoff, Russia
DiedJuly 16, 1916
FieldBiology
InstitutionsInstitut Pasteur, Paris, France
Alma materUniversity of Kharkoff
Notable prizesNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1908)

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (May 16, 1845 - July 16, 1916) was a Russian biologist.[1] He won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Paul Ehrlich, for finding out how immunity fights disease.[2]

References








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