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Boris Lozhkin
President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress

Celebrating famous Jews from Ukraine: Ilya Mechnikov

When developing vaccines against coronavirus, the scientists of today would be powerless to do anything, if at the end of the 19th century Ilya Mechnikov did not turn science right side up and put it back on its feet.

Before the discovery of phagocytosis by Mechnikov, leukocytes were considered harmful elements in the blood that only worsened the infection. Mechnikov proved that everything was exactly the opposite, and became the founder of the science of immunology.

He was a zoologist and did not have a medical education, but largely thanks to him, medicine acquired the form in which it is today. Mechnikov believed that a person was able to live 100 years or more, one just needed to eat right and lead a healthy lifestyle.

It seems that there is nothing new in this statement for people living in the twenty first century, but at the time of Mechnikov it was not so obvious. He gave people some more years of life (and to some, even decades) by discovering the healing properties of lactobacilli, and founded gerontology – the science of longevity.

It is not surprising that on his birthday, May 15, the World Longevity Day is celebrated. Ilya Mechnikov is one of three Nobel laureates in whose scientific life Kharkiv played a pivotal role. He graduated from the university here and at the age of 18 wrote his first scientific work. There is also a tangible Kharkiv trace in his Nobel Prize for work on immunity in 1908. When drinking a glass of yogurt or kefir today, give a toast to the great scientist.

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Find out more about my work at borislozhkin.org

About the Author
Boris Lozhkin is a Ukrainian entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. He is President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.
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