Dr. Stamen Grigorov The discoverer of Lactobacillus bulgaricus
Yoghurt has been eaten in the land of today’s stamen grigorov Bulgaria for more than 2,000 years. The Father of History, Herodotus, writes that yoghurt was one of the main food of the Thracians because they bred countless flocks of sheep.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian Nobel laureate and biologist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (also known as Élie Metchnikoff), was becoming popular with his research on human ageing. In 1903, Mechnikov published his work where he claimed that ageing was a sickness and could be treated. The Institut Pasteur in Paris, where Mechnikov worked, initiated research on longevity in many countries. It showed that the population density of centenarians was highest in Bulgaria – four per 1000 people. The scientists looked for the explanation in yoghurt – major food of the Bulgarians.
In 1905, at the age of 27, Dr Stamen Grigorov solved the secret of the Bulgarian yoghurt. Grigorov was born in 1878 in the village of Studen Izvor (lit. “Cold Spring“), Tran region, Bulgaria. He was the ninth of 12 children of Gigo and Zvezda. He studied in the Tran school and graduated from the First Man High School in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. His grades were excellent and luckily he received the support of a French politician. With his help, Grigorov studied biology in Montpellier, France, and medical science in Geneva, Switzerland. In Geneva, his Professor Léon Massol was interested in the work of Mechnikov and assigned Grigorov a task to research the content of Bulgarian yoghurt. He described it as consisting of a spherical and a rod-like lactic acid-producing bacteria. In 1907, the rod-like bacterium was called Bacillus bulgaricus.
Grigorov’s further research, carried out in many research institutes worldwide, proved that Bulgarian yoghurt helps in the treatment of various diseases and affections like infections, otic-rhino-laryngeal diseases tuberculosis, stomach and intestine affections, ulcers, some gynecologic diseases and fatigue. These prophylactic and curing properties of Bulgarian yoghurt are due to the highly rich content of vitamins B1, B2, C, A, D, E, PP, B12, milk sugar, proteins, and other important stimulating substances. The yoghurt of its original kind can be leavened only in Bulgaria and in some neighbouring regions in the Balkan countries. In other geographic conditions the bacteria degenerate quickly, lose their qualities and die.
Ilya Mechnikov was influenced by Grigorov’s work and hypothesized that regular consumption of yoghurt was responsible for the unusually long lifespans of Bulgarian peasants. Believing Lactobacillus to be essential for good health, Mechnikov worked to popularize yoghurt as a foodstuff throughout Europe.
Apart from the discovery of Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Dr. Grigorov made a major contribution to the creation of an anti-tuberculosis vaccine. On 20 December 1906, in Paris in issue No. 104 of the “La Presse Médicale” medical journal, Grigorov published his scientific report “The Anti-tuberculosis vaccine”, which informed the scientific community about the results of his research into the application of penicillin fungi for the treatment of tuberculosis. After the publication, the scientific community expressed serious interest in Dr. Grigorov’s vaccine. Through his scientific experiments “in-vitro” and “in-vivo” on lab animals and later on human patients, Dr. Grigorov clearly demonstrated and described the healing effect of penicillin fungi in the treatment of tuberculosis.
Although Dr. Grigorov created the vaccine, no Bulgarian institution supported him. It was replaced by another anti-tuberculosis vaccine discovered in 1921 by Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin, which became more popular. The vaccine created by Dr Grigorov could prevent and heal tuberculosis. He treated patients accross Bulgaria and 1935 he went to Milan, Italy, where his vaccine gave excellent results.
Dr Grigorov took part in the First and Second Balkan wars, as well as World War I. For his efforts as a field doctor, he received many government prizes.
Grigorov Glacier on Brabant Island in Palmer Archipelago, Antarctica, is named after Stamen Grigorov.