In 1896, a bubоnіc plаgue epіdеmic struck Bombay, and the government asked Waldemar Haffkine, developer of the first chоlera vаccіne, to help. After 3 months of persistent work (1 assistant had a nervous breakdown and 2 others quit), a vаccіne was ready, with Haffkine tеsting it on himself first

Waldemar Haffkine

Waldemar Mordechai Wolff Haffkine CIE (Ukrainian: Володимир Мордехай-Вольф Хавкін; Russian: Мордехай-Вольф Хавкин; 15 March 1860 – 26 October 1930) was a bacteriologist from the Russian Empire later naturalized French. He emigrated and worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where he developed an anti-cholera vaccine that he tried out successfully in India. He is recognized as the first microbiologist who developed and used vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague. He tested the vaccines on himself. Lord Joseph Lister named him “a saviour of humanity”.

He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee Honours. The Jewish Chronicle of that time noted “a Ukraine Jew, trained i… Continue Reading (8 minute read)

11 thoughts on “In 1896, a bubоnіc plаgue epіdеmic struck Bombay, and the government asked Waldemar Haffkine, developer of the first chоlera vаccіne, to help. After 3 months of persistent work (1 assistant had a nervous breakdown and 2 others quit), a vаccіne was ready, with Haffkine tеsting it on himself first”

  1. Gingrpenguin

    It is a tragedy that Haffkine isnt better known.

    During the rollout of this vaccine one bottle of the vaccine was contaminated with tetanus. He was fired for not sterlizing them correctly with acid (he used heat which was well regarded in France but not trusted by the British.)

    It took a campaign of the most influential scientists at the time to get him reinstated after they proved it was the thought of a vaccine giver who had dropped a bottle opener on the dirty ground and hadn’t washed it after.

    That said it left a stain on his reputation that never really recovered

  2. malalatargaryen

    The vaccine only reduced the risk by 50%, and had various side effects, but it’s still an amazing achievement for that era:

    >Haffkine focused his research on developing a cholera vaccine, and produced an attenuated form of the bacterium. Risking his own life, on 18 July 1892, Haffkine performed the first human test on himself…

    >He proceeded to India in 1893 and established a laboratory at Byculla in 1896, which moved to Parel and was later called the Haffkine Institute. Haffkine worked on the plague and by 1902–3 half a million were inoculated…

    >In October 1896, an epidemic of bubonic plague struck Bombay and the government asked Haffkine to help. He embarked upon the development of a vaccine in a makeshift laboratory in a corridor of Grant Medical College. In three months of persistent work (one of his assistants experienced a nervous breakdown; two others quit), a form for human trials was ready and on 10 January 1897 Haffkine tested it on himself. “Haffkine’s vaccine used a small amount of the bacteria to produce an immune reaction.”

    >After these results were announced to the authorities, volunteers at the Byculla jail were inoculated and survived the epidemics, while seven inmates of the control group died. “Like others of these early vaccines, the Haffkine formulation had nasty side effects, and did not provide complete protection, though it was said to have reduced risk by up to 50 percent.”…

    >By the turn of the 20th century, the number of inoculees in India alone reached four million…

  3. AhFFSImTooOldForThis

    Fun fact: the Plague is still active in the USA. I learned that from my doc when I was going through an unknown medical issue. I got tested for everything including the Plague, and he told me its active. Shocked me!

  4. DamnGrill

    hahaha, this is really awesome. I was a graduate student researcher at the Haffkine Institute in Mumbai. Actually I met my ex-prof just a few weeks ago.

  5. Khashoggis-Thumbs

    Yesterday my Russian mother-in-law told me about him. I had never heard of him before (I have a PhD in medical research and know a lot of the names).

    Now this post.

    He must be ricocheting around the internet but why?

    Where did you learn about him OP?

  6. Maggiemayday

    When I was in the service, a corpsman misread the chart, and I was vaccinated against bubonic plague. That was fun.

  7. definitely_not_cylon

    Of all sources, *Sliders* actually got this right in their pandemic episode. Testing the vaccine “on yourself” sounds noble, but if it doesn’t work and kills off the subject, then you’ve now left the people you were trying to help down one vaccine scientist! And it’s not much better if you just get yourself sick and stuck in bed for a bit. That’s not the only reason we test on subjects not part of the research, but it’s part of it.

  8. Tc9yJl8DJL

    Clearly this was just a pretense for John D. Rockefeller to microchip the population.

  9. ShroedingersMouse

    Wake up it was obviously a plot to get steam powered tiny robots into the population that could be controlled thereafter via Marco I radiotelegraph masts!

  10. vtjfvkc1

    Imagine encountering an anti-vaxxer after all of this effort and sacrifice.

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