Ilya Mechnikov

Élie Metchnikoff

1845 (Ivanivka, Ukraine) – 1916 (Paris)

Mechnikov studied at Giessen with Leuckart, making important discoveries about cellular digestion, but Leuckart published the work as his own, and Mechnikov left for Göttingen. Travelling from Odessa to Paris to seek Pasteur’s advice, he was given a lifetime post at the Pasteur Institute. Lister was sympathetic to his phagocytic theories, while his close friend Roux (with whom he worked on the transmission and treatment of syphilis) and Ehrlich were colleagues in Paris; Ehrlich and he shared the Nobel prize for their immunological work. Koch was typically antagonistic to his theories, but they eventually became firm friends.

Ilya Mechnikov knew…

Peter Medawar

1915 (Petrópolis, Brazil) – 1987 (London)

Medawar paved the way for transplant surgery, and was a brilliant writer about science. Young was his ‘very, very good’ tutor at Oxford. Medawar worked in Florey’s lab, meeting his wife-to-be there, and went and sat at the feet of Rous in America, Rous passing off Medawar’s over-consumption of cocktails as an allergy to pumpkin pie. He met the influential Hašek at an Amsterdam conference. Huxley and Ayer were both friends, and fellow-panelists on a popular radio programme. Among other good friends, Medawar was an influential supporter of Tinbergen’s work, while Perutz and Popper were regular guests at his home.

Peter Medawar knew…

Émile Roux

1853 (Confolens, France) – 1933 (Paris)

Roux was Duclaux’s protégé and assistant, Duclaux suggesting that Pasteur take him on. He became a close collaborator with Pasteur, working with him on avian cholera, anthrax and rabies (they developed a vaccine). Chamberland and he worked together; when Pasteur was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, he insisted Roux and Chamberland be honoured too. He helped Mechnikov with his work on syphilis (they succeeded in passing the infection to apes), and became his very close friend. Roux was joined by Yersin in his work on diphtheria, and succeeded Duclaux as director on the Pasteur Institute.