A commemorative postage stamp on Dr. W. M. Haffkine (1860-1930) :
Issued on Mar 16, 1964
Issued for : The Posts & Telegraphs Department deems it a great privilege to honour the memory of this great bacteriologist, whose work was of immense value to India, by bringing out a special commemorative stamp on the occasion of his 104th birth anniversary
Picture : Dr. W. M. Haffkine
Designed by General Manager, Govt. of India Press, New Delhi
Type : Stamp, Mint Condition
Watermark : Yes [All over multiple “Lion Capital of Asoka“]
Colour : Chestnut & Plum
Denomination : 15p
Overall Size : 3.91 X 2.90 cms.
Printing Size : 3.63 X 2.62 cms.
Printing Process : Photogravure
Printers : India Security Press
Name : Waldemar Mordecai Wolff Haffkine
Born on Mar 15, 1860 at Odessa, Ukraine
Died on Oct 26, 1930 at Lausanne, Switzerland
- In 1896, the beautiful city of Bombay was suddenly attacked by an epidemic of bubonic plague. The people grew panicky and the rest of the country became concerned. Thousands of people fell victim to the disease and died and many more fled from the city. At this critical moment, Waldemar Mordecai Wolff Haffkine came to Bombay from Calcutta to launch a struggle against the epidemic.
- Little is known of Haffkine’s childhood. He was born on the 16th March 1360 in the Russian seaport of Odessa which was then an intellectual and commercial centre of Russia. He graduated in science at the University of Odessa in 1884. During the next four years, he was attached to the zoological museum of his native town. At the age of 28, Haffkine became Assistant Professor of Physiology at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Louis Pasteur, the father of the science of microbiology invited him to join the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He worked with the Russian scientist Metchnikoff whose work on the cellular defence mechanism of human bodies against microbial diseases stands even today as an outstanding contribution in the field of immunology. Haffkine’s early association with these scientists of eminence greatly contributed in shaping his future activities.
- At the Pasteur Institute, his greatest interest was to develop a vaccine against cholera, another deadly disease, which was taking a heavy toll of human life at that time. He successfully invented a cholera vaccine and came to India in March 1893 to undertake its practical trials. Within a year, the vaccine against cholera became very popular and later it was accepted all over the world as an effective means of preventing the disease.
- On arriving in Bombay on the 7th October 1896, he realized that if one had to control the epidemic of plague, it was necessary to develop a vaccine without losing further time. He immediately started work at the Petit Laboratory at the Grant Medical College.
- The first hurdle he successfully crossed was the growing of plague bacilli in small glass containers. Once this was achieved, the preparation of Plague Vaccine became easier. On the 10th January, 1897, Haffkine inoculated himself, publicly, with the newly developed Plague Vaccine just to demonstrate the harmlessness of the product. He thus laid the foundation of plague prophylaxis which benefitted millions of people. The method of the preparation of the Plague Vaccine has, by and large, remained almost the same as it was about five decades back. For his outstanding contribution in the field of research and public health practices, the then Government of India conferred upon him the title of the C.I.E. He retired from India in 1914 and settled down in France. His colourful career came to an end on the 26th October 1930.
- Haffkine was not only an eminent scientist but also a person of unusual charm and dash. He had a strong personality and a lovable character. He lived a fruitful life helping in freeing mankind from the terrors of cholera and plague, two of the deadly diseases which took a heavy toll of human life during his life time. Perhaps the greatest tribute which our countrymen have paid to him is by naming after him the Bacteriological Laboratory at Bombay which he established. The Haffkine Institute, Bombay, has extended his ideas and thought by fruitful researches in the field of communicable diseases.