Have you ever wondered why the bacteria used to make yogurt is called Lactobacillus bulgaricus?

The Bulgarian physician and microbiologist Dr. Stamen Grigorov was just 27 years old when he discovered Lactobacillus bulgaricus – the bacteria that literally makes yogurt. And no wonder – there are yogurts on the market that claim originality, but the origins of yogurt are loud and clear in the Bulgarian countryside.

Born in the village of Studen Izvor, Tran Municipality, Bulgaria, on 27 October 1878, he completed his secondary education in natural sciences in Montpellier, France and medical science in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1905, in the microbiological laboratory of Professor Léon Massol in Geneva, Grigorov discovered that a certain strain of bacillus is the basis of yogurt.

Where did he take the yogurt for his research from?

At the beginning of the 20th century yogurt was gaining popularity as a healthy food so Dr. Grigorov was not the only scientist who was wondering what was so special about the simple food from his home country. Be he had a head start! He brought to his lab a small batch of yogurt made by his wife in his home village to study it. Soon after his hard work paid off.

The rod-shaped bacteria that cause the milk to ferment and turn into yogurt was called Lactobacillus bulgaricus in his recognition. Dr. Grigorov described the exact composition of yogurt in a scientific paper which became popular after the Russian biologist and Nobel Prize-winner Ilya Metchnikoff cited it in his book The Prolongation of Life (1908). Metchnikoff also suggested that the longevity of the Bulgarian peasants is due to their daily consumption of yogurt which led to introducing the healthy food in many Western European countries.

The discovery of Lactobacillus bulgaricus is not the only reason Dr. Stamen Grigorov’s work was widely respected. He also contributed to the creation of a tuberculosis treatment with penicillin fungi in 1906, along Albert Calmette. The healing effect of those fungi was documented in scientific experiments in-vitro and in-vivo on lab animals and human patients.

Dr. Stamen Grigorov died on 27 October 1945, but his legacy is still vivid. Soon after his death – in the 1950s, the Bulgarian yogurt company patented a specific blend of bacterial strains to preserve the original. This specific blend is still exported today to many yogurt producers around the world. To commemorate the scientist’s remarkable achievements a glacier on Brabant Island in Antarctica carries the name Grigorov Glacier.