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…

Charles Chamberland

1851 (Chilly-le-Vignoble, France) – 1908 (Paris)

Pasteur liked his colleague Chamberland partly because they came from the same Jura stock. Working with Pasteur for over 20 years, he was responsible for several important developments in bacteriology and immunology, working for example with Roux on anthrax and rabies. He and Roux (as well as Duclaux) both worked closely with Pasteur, who insisted that the two also be honoured when he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Chamberland was sent to Vienna to confront Pasteur’s rival Koch, and made important contributions to laboratory technique as well as to scientific understanding.

Robert Koch

1843 (Clausthal, Germany) – 1910 (Baden-Baden)

Koch did crucial research on anthrax, tuberculosis, cholera and other diseases, and with his associates was responsible for major advances in laboratory technique. He studied for his doctorate under Henle; they developed an important set of postulates. Cohn helped him by publishing his paper on anthrax; the influential Virchow was however antagonised by his work on tuberculosis. Koch and Pasteur conducted an acrimonious dispute about vaccination, further fuelled by current Franco-German rivalries. Always difficult to work with, Ehrlich, Behring and Kitasato were among his eminent students (he and Behring eventually fell out).

Robert Koch knew…