Sergei Winogradsky: Biography & Contributions

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn a bit about Sergei Winogradsky's life and work. By the end of this lesson, you'll realize just how much he contributed to the world of science.

Sergei Winogradsky

If you know a little bit of Russian, you'll know that 'vinograd' is a word that means 'grapes.' But Sergei Vinogradsky (also spelled Winogradsky) isn't known for fine wine. Sergei Nikolayevich Winogradsky is considered to be a founder of modern microbiology and the founder of microbial ecology.

Let's learn more about him and his work.

Early Years & Education


Winogradsky was born in Kiev in what was then the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) on September 1st, 1856 to his father, N.K. Winogradsky and mother, N.V. Skoropadskaia. He had two brothers and a sister. His family became very rich when he was a teen. His dad became a director of the first private bank in Kiev right around an economic boom in the area of what is now Ukraine. Winogradsky didn't have it too bad when he was growing up.


Winogradsky attended a university prep school where he was taught Latin and Greek. He excelled in his studies and was awarded a prestigious gold medal for his performance. However, Winogradsky found his education, as he said, ''depressing, both physically and morally.'' In fact, he wound up selling his gold medal soon after he received it because it meant so little to him. Some believe Winogradsky considered his education to be mediocre, unchallenging, and full of bureaucracy.

Winogradsky left the prep school and began his studies at the University of Kiev. Here, he studied law for two years like his dad and older brother. However, as you can now probably surmise, he found it dreadful. He transferred to the science department to seek a better challenge, but he was unhappy because the science he encountered here was disorganized.

Winogradsky then entered the elite St. Petersburg Academy of Music to train in classical piano. He studied with perhaps the best teacher at the time, Professor Theodor Leshetitski, but found music to be a kind of 'brainless' activity. It didn't make him very happy.

So thankfully, he tried the sciences once more. He had nothing to lose you see, for St. Petersburg contained some of the best universities in all of Europe, let alone Russia, at the time. This time, he found cerebral success as he studied science with some of the world's pre-eminent scholars of the day, including Dmitri Mendeleev, a genius in chemistry who created the periodic table of elements, and Ilya Mechnikov, a Nobel Prize Winning immunologist.

After studying for a few years, he found himself a world-class mentor in Andrei Famintsyn, a plant physiologist, under whose tutelage he earned his undergraduate and Master's degrees in science. In the meantime, he married Zinaida Alexandrovna Tikhotskaya in 1879, with whom he had four daughters and remained married for 60 years until her death.


A Brief on Later Life

Winogradsky's scientific genius and work was sought after by important universities and scientific personnel around the world. He worked at the University of Zurich and for the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine in Russia.

On two occasions, he even had to brush back a personal plea from Louis Pasteur to come work for him. At first, he declined Pasteur's invitations, seeking to work in his homeland of Russia instead. He even retired in 1905 in Russia, thinking he'd become a farmer and land owner.

But the communist revolution forced him to flea Russia in 1917, and he finally chose to work for the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He worked there until he retired in 1940. Winogradsky passed away on February 25th, 1953 in Brie-Comte-Robert, France aged 96.

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