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Elie Metchnikoff
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Scientist
    (May 16, 1845-July 15, 1916)
    Born in Kupianask Raion, Ukraine
    Name also spelled Ilya Mechnikov
    Biologist
    Known for pioneering studies in immunology and gerontology
    Shared the 1908 Nobel Prize in Medicine for studies of phagocytosis (the process in which cells ingest solid particles)
    He tried to commit suicide by overdosing on opium (1876) and injecting himself with dangerous bacteria (1880).
    He was unkempt, had pockets overflowing with written notes, always wore galoshes regardless of the weather, and owned a single hat, which he occasionally sat on when excited.
    A biographer described him as 'a hysterical character out of one of Dostoevski's novels.'
    He promoted the now discredited idea that much of aging (including dementia) was caused by 'autointoxication' from the bacteria living in the large intestine.
    He claimed that ingesting foods high in lactic acid, such as yogurt and sour milk, would neutralize these bacteria and extend life expectancies to 120.
    He drank a gallon of sour milk a day, but still died 50 years short of his goal.
    At age six, he taught natural history to his siblings.
    His theory that white blood cells formed the first line of defense against disease by engulfing and destroying bacteria was initially controversial but proved correct.
    He coined the word 'gerontology' for the study of aging and longevity.
    He never went as far as some autointoxication zealots who advocated surgical removal of the large intestine.
    He was the yogurt industry's best friend. (At least until the guys at Dannon discovered you could add fruit to the stuff and make it palatable.)

Credit: C. Fishel


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