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Ioffe, Vladimir Il’ich

(Yeraḥmi’el Ze‘ev Volf; 1898–1979), Soviet microbiologist and immunologist. Born in the town of Mglin, Chernigov province, in the Pale, Vladimir Ioffe grew up in Perm. The education given in the Ioffe home was Jewish in character. The family read books on Jewish history and culture, written mostly in Hebrew and Yiddish. From his childhood Vladimir showed a particular interest in Hebrew, and at 10, together with his two brothers, he issued a children’s magazine in Hebrew called Kitme diyo (Ink Stains), comprising 32 pages of prose and verse. Ioffe’s study of Hebrew did not prevent him from graduating with honors from the local boys’ high school.

In 1915, Ioffe entered the medical faculty of Kazan’ University. While a medical student, he participated in a group dedicated to Hebrew literature and history and followed the latest developments in Hebrew literature. In 1921, Ioffe graduated from university and began working as a physician in a provincial hospital, where he soon became head of the laboratory. Simultaneously, he was actively engaged in community work among Jewish youth, organizing groups devoted to the Hebrew language and Jewish literature, and a drama group, which he himself directed.

Ioffe nevertheless gave first preference to his scientific work. In 1923, he moved to Petrograd, where he assumed a position at the Institute of Experimental Medicine. For a year he worked there as a volunteer, earning a living as a hospital doctor. The young researcher’s scientific interests were exceptionally wide-ranging. Ioffe engaged in the study of and struggle against such diseases as diphtheria, measles, dysentery, scarlet fever, and rheumatism. He trained dozens of candidates and doctors of science.

Ioffe maintained his active interest in questions of Jewish culture. He became acquainted with poets Ḥayim Lenski and Naḥman Shvarts and the historians Ber Shul’man and Yeḥi’el Ravrebe. He participated in a seminar on the history of Jewish medicine, compiled a Hebrew–Russian medical dictionary, and wrote a scientific article in Hebrew for the journal Ha-Refu’ah, published in Palestine.

In 1930 Ioffe married Berta, daughter of Leningrad Rabbi David Tevel Katzenelenbogen, and maintained a Jewish way of life even during the height of the Terror. Yet this did not prevent him from retaining his position as scientific director of the Leningrad Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, a post he had assumed in 1933. Here he consolidated his position as a leading microbiologist. He wrote more than 200 scientific works. During World War II he served as chief epidemiologist of the Baltic fleet.

In 1969 Ioffe was elected to membership in the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He was a contributor to the third edition of the Bol’shaia meditsinskaia entsiklopediia (Great Medical Encyclopedia) and was invited to serve on the editorial boards of various medical journals. He continued his scientific work until his last days. He was awarded many government honors and medals.

Suggested Reading

Avraam Belov, “Vtoroe prizvanie akademika Ioffe,” in Rytsari ivrita v byvshem sovetskom soiuze, pp. 349–369 (Jerusalem, 1998); Irina Solomonovna Freidlin, V. I. Ioffe v Institute Eksperimental’noi Meditsiny (St. Petersburg, 1998), p. 72; Irina Solomonovna Freidlin and P. G. Nazarov, “Osnovopolozhnik klinicheskoi immunologii,” Mir meditsiny 3 (1998): 9–10; Artem Akopovich Totolian and Boris Nikolaevich Sofonov, “Uchenyi operedivshii svoe vremia,” Vestnik rossiiskoi akademii meditsinskikh nauk 11 (1994): 59–62.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson