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Metchnikoff Day – in honor of the founder of gerontology – a chance to promote longevity
Ilia Stambler   May 7, 2015   Longevity for All  

On May 15, 2015, we celebrate the 170th anniversary of the founder of gerontology, a foundational figure of modern immunology, aging and longevity science, and of modern medicine generally – Elie Metchnikoff (May 15, 1845 – July 15, 1916).

For the proponents of healthy longevity and advocates of aging research, Metchnikoff has a special significance. Metchnikoff is of course known as a pioneering immunologist and microbiologist, a vice director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and the Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine of 1908 for the discovery of phagocytosis (a major contribution to the cellular theory of immunity). Yet, he may also be well credited as “the father” of gerontology – the disciplinary term he coined in his book Etudes On the Nature of Man, published in 1903, which may mark the beginning of this scientific field.

MetchnikoffTo the present day, his scientific reputation has remained high around the world. In fact, Metchnikoff can be considered a unifying cultural symbol for many nations. Beside being a great longevity scientist, he was also a great longevity advocate, who spoke openly about the need to fight degenerative aging and prolong life. He can be a great role model and inspiration, and an authoritative spokesman for the longevity movement!

There is a tradition to celebrate the anniversaries of great persons (scientists, artists, writers, politicians, generals) to promote the area of their activity and popularize their ideology. It may be hoped that, in this year, the anniversary of Metchnikoff will serve to promote and popularize the science and ideology of healthy life extension, including the state level. The “Metchnikoff Day” can provide an impulse for organizing topical meetings and conferences, a stimulus for research, and publications in the media, dedicated to Metchnikoff’s legacy and continuation of his life work – the study of aging and longevity. This may play a positive role not only for the advancement and popularization of research of aging and healthy longevity, but also for the promotion of optimism, peace and cooperation.

Currently events in honor of the Metchnikoff Day are being planned in Kiev, Ukraine, on behalf of the Kiev Institute of Gerontology of the Ukrainian Academy of Medical Sciences; St. Petersburg, Russia, on behalf of the Gerontological Society of the Russian Academy of Sciences and I.I. Mechnikov North-Western State Medical University; in Moscow on behalf of the National Research Center for Preventive Medicine of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation, and further meetings in Moscow are planned by several public organizations, including the Fedorov Movement, the Russian Transhumanist Movement and the Russian Longevity Alliance; Larnaca, Cyprus, on behalf of the ELPIs Foundation and the Cyprus Neuroscience and Technology Institute; Oxford, UK, on behalf of the Oxford University Scientific Society and Biogerontology Research Foundation; in Ramat Gan, Bar Ilan University, Israel, on behalf of the Israeli Longevity Alliance and the International Society on Aging and Disease (Israeli branch).

It may be hoped that, following these examples, more events and publications, dedicated to research of aging and longevity, will be held around the world in honor of this day or close to it. Thus thanks to Metchnikoff’s continuing inspiration and authority, the interest in aging and longevity research will be increased in all the walks and segments of society. And thanks to the increased interest and awareness, the research will intensify, producing an improved capacity to contribute to the achievement of healthy longevity for all.

There is little time left until May 15, perhaps enough to prepare a small publication or meeting, live or online. Yet Metchnikoff’s authority may help us promote the study of aging and longevity also in the next year – July 15, 2016 is the 100th anniversary of Metchnikoff’s death, which can also become an impulse toward meetings and publications, with a greater time for preparation. The organization of several connected events in different countries in the same day (or period) in the framework of an international action, may produce a synergistic, mutually reinforcing effect. 

Yet, of course, those are not the only days that could be used for such an effect. An additional convenient day (or period) to conduct an international action in support of aging and longevity research, can be October 1, 2015 – the day officially sanctioned by the UN as the “International Day of Older Persons” (celebrated by some parts of the longevity advocacy community as the “International Longevity Day”). In 2013-2014, events around that day were conducted by various longevity activists groups, public organizations and scientific centers in tens of countries.

Hopefully, thanks to our mutual efforts, “from above” and “from below”, thanks to the events, meetings and publications, that we all organize on those and other days – the need to promote research of aging and aging-related diseases to improve health and longevity of the elderly population – will be recognized by all parts of society, including the broad public, the professional and scientific community, and decision makers, and will stimulate actions corresponding to the severity and urgency of the problem.

Thank you for your support!

Please see also a fuller announcement, including the description of the foundational role of Metchnikoff for the formation of modern science of aging and longevity and a list of events that are being organized in honor of that day (the list will be updated)

Ilia Stambler
Ilia Stambler is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. He completed his PhD degree at the Department of Science, Technology and Society, Bar-Ilan University. His thesis subject, and his main interest, is the History of Life-extensionism in the 20th Century.”

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