Haffkine, Waldemar Mordecai Wolff

Haffkine, Waldemar Mordecai Wolff, 1860–1930, Ukrainian microbiologist, b. Odessa, Russia (now in Ukraine). After studying (1879–83) at the Univ. of Odessa with the microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov, he worked (1882–88) at the zoological museum in Odessa. Denied a professorship because he was Jewish, Haffkine emigrated, joining (1889) the Pasteur Institute, Paris, where he developed (1892) an attenuated cholera vaccine that he tested on himself first. He successfully treated a cholera epidemic in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, beginning in 1893. During an outbreak of plague in 1896 in Bombay (now Mumbai), he began work on a curative serum. When that proved ineffective, he developed (1897) a vaccine using dead bacteria, which he again tested on himself; its success led the Aga Khan to provide funds for Haffkine's Plague Research Laboratory (now the Haffkine Institute). After initial success and the inoculation of hundreds of thousands of people, several cases of tetanus occurred (1902) that were blamed on poor sterilization, and Haffkine was removed as director of the laboratory. He was finally exonerated (1907) when it was demonstrated that accidental contamination during inoculation was likely to blame. Haffkine subsequently worked at Calcutta until he retired (1914) and moved to France.

See biography by S. Waksman (1964).

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