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Photograph of Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (1845-1916), Russian biologist and Nobel laureate. Taught in Russia and Germany, Mechnikov came into an inheritance in 1872, allowing him to study at Messina in Italy. There he studied the transparent larvae of starfish, noticing that some cells were able to engulf and digest foreign particles. He called these cells 'phagocytes'. Moving to Paris in 1888, he continued his search for phagocytic action in humans. He discovered that white blood cells have a phagocytic action. He later tried to apply the concept of phagocytosis to human ageing. For his work on phagocytosis, Mechnikov shared the 1908 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
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