Gamaleia, Nikolai

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gamaleia, Nikolai Fedorovich


Born Feb. 5 (17), 1859, in Odessa; died Mar. 29, 1949, in Moscow. Soviet microbiologist. Honorary academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1940; corresponding member, 1939). Academician of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR (1945). Member of the CPSU from 1948.

Gamaleia graduated from Novorossiiskii University in Odessa in 1880. After graduating from the Academy of Military Medicine in St. Petersburg in 1883, he began to study the bacteriology of tuberculosis and anthrax in Odessa. In 1886 he worked in Paris with L. Pasteur. Studying vaccination against rabies, he improved on Pasteur’s method of prophylactic inoculations. In the same year he and I. I. Mechnikov organized a bacteriological station in Odessa. He discovered that cattle plague is caused by a filterable virus. From 1887 to 1891 he did research on rabies, tuberculosis, cholera, and inflammatory processes. In 1892 he defended his doctoral dissertation, Etiology of Cholera From the Standpoint of Experimental Pathology (published in 1893).

In 1899, Gamaleia directed the establishment of a bacteriological institute in Odessa. In 1898 he discovered substances that destroy bacteria—bacteriolysins. He introduced many new ideas into the study of microbial toxins. In the years 1901-02 he was in charge of efforts to control the plague epidemic raging in Odessa. During the ensuing years he fought against cholera in southern Russia. Gamaleia discovered “Mechnikov’s vibrio,” the causative agent of a cholera-like disease of birds. He proposed a vaccine against cholera in man and devised various sanitary and hygienic measures to control the disease. In 1908, Gamaleia was the first to demonstrate that typhus is transmitted by lice. He worked hard to prevent typhus and relapsing fever, cholera, smallpox, and other infectious diseases. In 1910 he was the first to prove the value of disinsection (destruction of insects) in eradicating typhus and relapsing fever. From 1910 to 1913 he edited and published the journal Gigiena i sanitariia (Hygiene and Sanitation) that he founded. From 1912 to 1928 he was the scientific director of the Institute of Smallpox Vaccination in Leningrad, and from 1930 to 1938 he occupied the same post in the Central Institute of Epidemiology and Bacteriology in Moscow. From 1938 until the end of his life Gamaleia was a professor in the Microbiology subdepartment of the Second Moscow Medical Institute and from 1939, chief of the laboratory of the Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR. From 1939 he was president and then honorary president of the all-Union Society of Microbiologists, Epidemiologists, and Specialists in Infectious Diseases. In his works he was a consistent materialist and a supporter of the theory of evolution. He trained numerous Soviet microbiologists. Gamaleia received the State Prize of the USSR in 1943 and was awarded two Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and medals.


Sobr. soch., vols. 1-6. Moscow, 1951-64.


Nikolai Fedorovich Gamaleia. (AN SSSR: Matly k bibliografii uchenykh SSSR: Seriia biologicheskikh nauk, vol. 1.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Milenushkin, Iu. I. N. F. Gamaleia. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.