The Grand Ideas of Elie Metchnikoff
One think he believed was that senility was due to the toxic effects of bacteria in the gut. He therefore advocated soured milk - because he thought its acidity would combat the alkali-loving bacteria in the intestine.
He was an atheist and reasoned that if in order to live a man has to have faith, then he would have faith in Science. Through Science, he thought, mankind would live well and long, and then would not suffer old age or fear death, but would come to need them, just as the body craves for sleep at the end of a hard day's work.
At the age of 70 he had a severe heart attack, and wrote down his symptoms (a natural blogger) as they happened - until he was in too much pain to write any longer. When the symptoms lessened, after six hours, he wrote again. The most pleasing thing, he said, was that he no longer feared death but felt he had lived long enough, and expected it.
In 1908 he won a Nobel Prize for Medicine, and in May I went to a conference that commemorated this centenary in the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris. He spent the last twenty-eight years of his life there and was very happy. His ashes are still kept there in the library. At the end of the conference an elderly research worker gave a talk, and at the beginning he pondered over his longevity, wondering what it was due to...
'Yakult!' called out a man behind me - but very, very quietly.
It is making me smile even now.