Elie Metchnikoff

The founder of gerontology, Elie Metchnikoff

Elie Metchnikoff
(15 May 1845 - 15 July 1916) was a Russian-born zoologist who coined the term "gerontology" in 1903.[1][2] Others before him had studied old age in humans (such as Michel-Eugene Chevreul), but Metchnikoff was the first to give the field the name "gerontology".

Born in what is now Ukraine, he was convinced by his mother to study natural sciences instead of medicine, and enrolled at Kharkov University for natural sciences, completing his four-year degree in two years. In particular, he is credited with the discovery of phagocytes (macrophages) in 1882, and his discovery turned out to be the major defence mechanism in innate immunity.[3] He won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[4][5][6][7]

Note Regarding Human Lifespan

In 1909, Elie Metchnikoff was asked by the New York Times to estimate the maximum human lifespan a century later: his guesstimate was "140". Notably, actuary Thomas Emley Young estimated "125", which proved to be far closer to the actual result (122.45 in the case of Jeanne Calment).


  1. Vértes, L (1985). "The gerontologist Mechnikov". Orvosi hetilap 126 (30): 1859–1860. PMID 3895124.
  2. Martin, D. J.; Gillen, L. L. (2013). "Revisiting Gerontology's Scrapbook: From Metchnikoff to the Spectrum Model of Aging". The Gerontologist 54 (1): 51–58. doi:10.1093/geront/gnt073. PMID 23893558.
  3. "Élie Metchnikoff". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  4. Belkin, R.I. (1964). "Commentary," in I.I. Mechnikov, Academic Collection of Works, vol. 16. Moscow: Meditsina. p. 434. Belkin, a Russian science historian, explains why Metchnikoff himself, in his Nobel autobiography -- and subsequently, many other sources -- mistakenly cited his date of birth as May 16 instead of May 15. Metchnikoff made the mistake of adding 13 days to May 3, his Old-Style birthday, as was the convention in the 20th century. But since he had been born in the 19th century, only 12 days should have been added.
  5. Vikhanski, Luba (2016). Immunity: How Elie Metchnikoff Changed the Course of Modern Medicine. Chicago Review Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-1613731109. This author cites Metchnikoff's death certificate, according to which he died on July 15, 1916 (the original is in the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Metchnikoff Fund, 584-2-208). Olga Metchnikoff did not provide a precise date for her husband's death in her book, and many sources erroneously cite it as July 16.
  6. "Ilya Mechnikov - Biographical". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  7. "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1908". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
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