Nikolay Gamaleya

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Nikolay Gamaleya

Nikolay Fyodorovich Gamaleya (Russian: Никола́й Фёдорович Гамале́я; Ukrainian: Мико́ла Фе́дорович Гамалі́я; 17 February 1859 [O.S. 5 February] – 29 March 1949) was a Russian and Soviet physician and scientist who played a pioneering role in microbiology and vaccine research.


Gamaleya was born in Odessa, then part of the Russian Empire. He graduated from Odessa's Novorossiysky University (now Odessa University) in 1880 and the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy (now the S.M. Kirov Military Medical Academy) in 1883. He became a respected hospital physician in his native Odessa afterward.

Gamaleya worked in Louis Pasteur's laboratory in France in 1886. Following Pasteur's model after his return, he joined Ilya Mechnikov in organizing an Odessa bacteriological station for rabies vaccination studies and research on combating cattle plague and cholera, diagnosing sputum for tuberculosis, and preparing anthrax vaccines.[1] The Odessa Bacteriological Institute became Russia's first-ever bacteriological observation station.

Despite the poor facilities and the small staff, the scientists were able to succeed in figuring out the conditions under which the rabies vaccination was most effective.[1] Gamaleya's proposal for using killed bacilli in anti-cholera vaccines was later successfully applied on a wide scale as well.[1] Similar stations were soon founded in Kiev (1886), Yekaterinoslav (1897), and Chernigov (1897).[2]

After defending his 1892 dissertation on the etiology of cholera (published in 1893), Gamaleya served as director of the Odessa Bacteriological Institute in 1896-1908. Reporting of the lysis of Bacillus anthracis bacteria by a transmissible "ferment" in 1898, Gamaleya was the discoverer of the bacteria-destroying antibodies known as bacteriolysins.[3]

Gamaleya initiated a public health campaign of exterminating rats to fight the plague in Odessa and southern Russia and pointed to the louse as the carrier of typhus.[4] In 1910-1913, Gamaleya edited the journal Gigiena i sanitariya (Hygiene and Sanitation).[3][5]

Gamaleya's later work, including organizing the supply and distribution of smallpox vaccines for the Red Army, made strides toward the eventual eradication of smallpox in the USSR.[6]

The author of more than 300 academic publications on bacteriology, Gamaleya was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He also served as head of the All-Union Society of Microbiologists, Epidemiologists and Infectionists.

The highly regarded Gamaleya's state honors included two Lenin Orders, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and the 1943 State Stalin Prize.

Gamaleya died in Moscow.

The N. F. Gamaleya Federal Research Center for Epidemiology & Microbiology in Moscow is named after him.


  1. ^ a b c Zalkind, Semyon (2001). Ilya Mechnikov: His Life and Work. Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific. pp. 96-98. ISBN 978-0-89875-622-7.
  2. ^ Melikishvili, Alexander (2006). "Genesis of the Anti-Plague System: The Tsarist Period". Critical Reviews in Microbiology 32, pp. 19–31. ISSN 1040-841X.
  3. ^ a b Melikishvili, Alexander (2008). "Annex: Biosketches of Scientists and Other Public Figures Who Played Important Roles in the Evolution of Tsarist Russia’s Anti-Plague System". In Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Alexander Melikishvili, and Raymond A. Zilinskas, The Soviet Anti-Plague System, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  4. ^ Podolsky, Edward (1972). Red Miracle: The Story of Soviet Medicine. New York: Beechhurst Press. p. 222. ISBN 0-8369-2818-0.
  5. ^ "Hygiene and sanitation". Izdatelstvo Meditsina.
  6. ^ Podolsky, Edward (1972). Red Miracle: The Story of Soviet Medicine. New York: Beechhurst Press. p. 224. ISBN 0-8369-2818-0.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bardell, D (1982). "An 1898 Report by Gamaleya for a Lytic Agent Specific for Bacillus Anthracis". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 37 (2): 222–5. doi:10.1093/jhmas/xxxvii.2.222. PMID 6806352.

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