News

May 15, 2020

175th Birth Anniversary of the University Alumnus, Nobel Prize Winner Ilya Mechnikov


This year, the world marks the 175th birth anniversary of Kharkiv University alumnus, famous scientist, Nobel Prize winner, one of the founders of comparative pathology, evolutionary embryology, immunology and microbiology, founder of the cellular theory of immunity and the phenomenon of phagocytosis.

The scientist was born in Kharkiv region on May 15, 1845. The boy had a penchant for scientific research since childhood: he studied plants, made herbaria, caught and studied insects and fish, read a lot of books on science and zoology. At the age of 19, he graduated from the Department of Natural Sciences of Kharkiv University School of Physics and Mathematics. At 25, he was elected Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Novorossiysk University in Odessa.

During 1888–1916, Ilya Mechnikov headed Louis Pasteur’s laboratory in Paris. He continued to study phagocytes, gerontology, bacteriology, studied the phenomena of aging, presented the phagocytic theory of immunity, created a theory of the origin of multicellular organisms and published a number of works on aging.

In 1908, together with Paul Ehrlich, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on immunity.

Ilya Mechnikov is known as the founder of the cellular theory of immunity. He developed the theory of embryonic leaves, the origin of multicellular organisms, discovered the phenomenon of phagocytosis and developed the phagocytic theory of immunity. Thanks to him, the concept of “immunity” appeared in science.

The scientist founded a school of epidemiologists, microbiologists, immunologists and pathologists; took an active part in creating research institutions that developed various forms of fighting infectious diseases. A number of bacteriological and immunological institutes, in particular in Ukraine, bear his name. More than 40 doctors specializing in the treatment of infectious diseases were trained under his direct supervision.

Karazin University community is celebrating this important date. In particular, the Central Scientific Library has prepared a virtual book exhibition presenting the scientist’s works, memories of him. Full texts of Ilya Mechnikov’s works are also available in a special collection in the eScriptorium science and education electronic archive. The University History Museum has prepared a virtual exhibition presenting the main milestones of the scientist’s life.

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