12 Greatest Russian Medical Scientists

The history of Russian medicine contains many outstanding doctors and significant discoveries. On the eve of Medical Worker Day, which is celebrated on June 16 in 2024.

Polio winner

In 1937, Mikhail Petrovich Chumakov, during an expedition to the Khabarovsk Territory, isolated a virus that causes tick-borne encephalitis. On further trips to the regions of the country, he was able to describe several types of hemorrhagic fevers; They were also offered effective treatment of trachoma with antibiotics.

In the 1950s, Mikhail Petrovich and a group of researchers became acquainted with the polio vaccine created by American scientists Salk and Seibin. Having studied the data obtained during the collaboration, Chumakov and his colleagues established the safety and resistance to mutation of the vaccine, thereby allowing the USSR to become the first in the world to begin universal vaccination. Within a few years, the disease in the country was practically eliminated, and the drug produced at the Chumakov Institute was exported to 60 countries. The creator of the vaccine, Albert Sabin, said: “The Russians fought a lightning war against polio and won, spending ten times less time than the Americans to defeat the enemy.”

Quote from the book “Memories of Mikhail Petrovich Chumakov” (Boris Nuvakhov, Sergei Drozdov, Vanda Pogodina): “In the 60s, when a severe outbreak of polio began in Japan, Japanese mothers demanded that their government purchase the vaccine from the Soviet Union. Mikhail Petrovich went to Japan and, against the background of the epidemic, vaccinated children with our vaccine. The epidemic quickly subsided and soon ceased.

30 years have passed. Suddenly, Japanese people appeared at the Institute, who, as it turned out, were children vaccinated then with our vaccine. In memory of this, they placed 30 roses under the portrait of Mikhail Petrovich and, to the accompaniment of their own orchestra, performed a song specially composed in his honor. It was a sign of gratitude and deep appreciation from all the children in Japan who were saved by him from maiming and death.”

Illness named after Botkin

Sergei Petrovich Botkin received recognition during his lifetime: in 1870, the academician became the life physician of the royal family. 5 years earlier, he created an epidemiological society, where he and his colleagues studied the spread of plague, cholera, typhoid, smallpox, diphtheria and scarlet fever. While researching liver diseases, Sergei Petrovich was able to identify a new “disease”, the symptoms of which were jaundice, an enlarged spleen and sometimes kidney problems. The viral hepatitis A he described was long called “Botkin’s disease.”

Quotes: “The concept of a disease is inextricably linked with its cause, which is always exclusively determined by the external environment, acting either directly on the diseased organism, or through its immediate and distant parents.”

“The most important and essential tasks of practical medicine are the prevention of disease, treatment of developed disease and, finally, alleviation of the suffering of a sick person.”

Lady of Antibiotics

Zinaida Vissarionovna Ermolyeva was the first in the USSR to receive penicillin in 1942 . Subsequently, she focused on the fight against cholera, the situation with which worsened during the Great Patriotic War. The fearless experience of 1922 was also very useful, when Ermolyeva drank a solution of Vibrio cholera to become infected and defeated the disease. In 1960, Zinaida Vissarionovna and a group of colleagues developed interferon, which is still used today for the treatment of ARVI, and sometimes eyes and skin. Later, under the leadership of the scientist, many drugs were created and introduced into production, for example, ecmolin, ecmonovocillin, bicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline and others.

Quotes :  “…Mold also attracted our attention because the director of the institute, N.I. Grashchenkov, showed me before going to the Volga a clipping from an English newspaper, which sparsely reported that in England penicillin was obtained from mold. “Perhaps the mold isolated by T.I. Balezina and me in the bomb shelter will give doctors a means to treat the wounded?” — a thought flashed through me as I somehow made my way into my small room in the hospital.”

“…Every week on Thursdays, professors, doctors, surgeons and neurosurgeons, skin specialists, pediatricians, and therapists gathered in my office. The spectrum of action of penicillin was striking in its breadth. Everyone shared the results of the first tests. With what trepidation we waited for what the doctors would say about the first patients who were treated with our penicillin!..”

Anatomist from God

Nikolai Ivanovich Pirogov has many merits to medicine in Russia and the whole world. He was the first to create a topographic anatomical atlas of the body, where he displayed the layer-by-layer structure of human regions and organs. Already in the degree of Doctor of Science, Pirogov trained military surgeons and reworked established practices, creating new techniques that often made it possible to abandon amputations. One of the operations on the lower leg bears his name.

Nikolai Ivanovich was also the first to perform an operation under anesthetic ether in the field . During the Crimean War, the scientist first improved the bandage that fixed fractures by adding starch to it, and then developed the idea by soaking the fabric in liquid plaster.

Quotes: “We must remember that the gift of speech is the only and invaluable means of penetrating into a phenomenon.”

“The future belongs to preventative medicine. This science, going hand in hand with medicine, will bring undoubted benefits to humanity.”

Chaos Fighter

Nikolai Vasilyevich Sklifosovsky is an innovative surgeon who left behind more than 70 publications. Coming from a large, poor family, he paved the way to recognition with his work and perseverance. Without trying to make operations shorter, Sklifosovsky improved their technique. The doctor was especially interested in abdominal interventions on the peritoneum. At the end of the 19th century, these technically complex operations, even by modern times, were very little studied.

The Sklifosovsky method is a thorough consideration of all issues and an individual approach to patients and their characteristics. The scientist traveled around Europe, where he adopted the best practices of his colleagues. Over the course of several years, he mastered the treatment of gynecological diseases, urolithiasis, tumor surgery, and facial plastic surgery for injuries. While working as a military field surgeon, Nikolai Vasilyevich introduced a fixed bandage and sorting of the wounded according to the severity of injuries, which saved doctors from chaos in their work.

Quote:  “The collection of Russian land is over… and the period of childhood, imitation and cultural borrowing has passed. We have paid the fatal tribute of historical apprenticeship and entered the rut of independent life. We have our own literature, we have science and art, and we have become active and independent in all fields of culture, and now, with the exception of some monuments from the historical period of our history, we have almost no evidence of what we have experienced… A people who had their own Pirogov, has the right to be proud, since a whole period of medical science is associated with this name…

More than a zoologist

Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov had doctoral degrees in medicine and zoology, popularized and developed science. The scientist described the phenomena of the nervous system: central inhibition, summation of excitations and aftereffects. Nobeliat Ivan Petrovich Pavlov called him “the founder of native physiology and the bearer of a truly free spirit.” It was Sechenov who laid the foundations of neurophysiology, labor physiology, physiology of extreme conditions and other areas.

Quote:  “All the infinite variety of external manifestations of brain activity is finally reduced to just one phenomenon – muscle movement. Whether a child laughs at the sight of a toy, whether Garibaldi smiles when he is persecuted for excessive love for his homeland, whether a girl trembles at the first thought of love, whether Newton creates world laws and writes them on paper, everywhere the final fact is muscle movement. To help the reader quickly come to terms with this thought, I will remind him of the frame created by the minds of peoples and into which all manifestations of brain activity fit; This frame is word and deed.”

The first Russian nobel

The “rock star” of world science, physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov , is our first compatriot to be awarded the Nobel Prize (if you don’t count Marie Sklodowska-Curie, who was born on the territory of the Russian Empire). Fame came to him after the discovery of the amplifying nerve of the heart. But his main fame came from his studies of reflexes, which he divided into conditioned and unconditioned. In addition, Pavlov received pure gastric juice through a fistula he created. The works of Ivan Petrovich are still the basis of the physiology of digestion.

Quote:  “I think that if a person always has a goal that must be achieved, then he will not be disappointed in life. If a person lives aimlessly, here he has a minute, an hour, and he doesn’t know what to do, here he has a day, a month – and others don’t know what to take up all their lives – then, of course, you can be disappointed . Life can get boring. On the contrary, if every minute a person is with a task, a goal, a deed, then not only days and months, but his whole life will turn out to be short for achieving the goals that a person will set for himself. Then it will be possible to see people who are burning with their goals until the end of their days…”

Founder of gerontology

The second Russian Nobel laureate in medicine was Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1908 . He discovered the phenomenon of phagocytosis (absorption of other particles by cells) and phagocytic immunity, intracellular digestion. Mechnikov studied embryology and created the field of scientific gerontology. The scientist believed that a person should live without disease and die a “calm natural death.” Adherents of this theory celebrate his birthday as “Mechnikov Day.”

Quotes:  “With the help of science, man is able to correct the imperfections of his nature.”

“Empty worries, fears of illness and troubles that are rarely justified are simply bad habits. By properly ventilating and illuminating the mind, one can develop composure, self-control and true courage.”

“Persons who wish to preserve as much mental strength as possible and complete the full cycle of life as possible should lead a very moderate lifestyle and follow the rules of rational hygiene.”

Expert in the Human Brain

Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev studied the functioning of the brain and remained in history as a psychologist, psychiatrist and neurologist. He studied and described the effects of hypnosis, the fight against drug addiction and alcoholism, and epilepsy. Bekhterev’s physiological reflexes make it possible to detect lesions of the nervous system in the cerebral cortex or pathways leading to the spinal cord. The scientist left behind a large volume of publications, his own school with hundreds of students, including 70 professors. Bekhterev’s work was highly appreciated in the Russian Empire, the USSR and around the world.

Quotes:  “Alcoholism is a social evil that is difficult to overestimate.”

“Sometimes suggestion and inoculation of ideas plays a much more prominent role than logical persuasion. Anyone who communicates with the people knows this well from his own experience.”

“We can say that not a single sigh and not a single smile is lost in the world without a trace.”

he one who gave sight

We associate the name of Svyatoslav Nikolaevich Fedorov with eye surgeries. To treat cataracts, he came up with the idea of ​​replacing diseased lenses that were losing their transparency with artificial ones. The first plastic prototypes were made in 1959 and implanted into rabbits. For many years he developed and improved his design. Svyatoslav Nikolaevich was also the first in the world to operate on glaucoma in the early stages. Fedorov learned to surgically stop myopia, astigmatism and farsightedness.

Quotes:  “A doctor who is afraid is not yet a doctor. After all, the success of surgery lies in the complete absence of fear. Just like only those who are not afraid of death can win during a war. Likewise, a surgeon who is not afraid that he will perform a bad operation operates normally. This is the simplest and, at the same time, the most difficult thing – to get rid of fear.”

“I love operating. You feel your power over the process, as if you are in flight: you need to gain altitude – you gain it, you need a turn – you spin it. And it’s as if you’re constantly walking along a razor blade 100 angstroms thick, thinner than a hair, but you know that you’ll get there, you won’t fall. The feeling of responsibility and usefulness of what you are doing: this patient, almost blind, will see tomorrow. I am an impulsive, explosive person by nature, and therefore I could not be, say, a therapist: I need to quickly see the result of what I have done.”

The real plague doctor

Vladimir Aronovich Khavkin is an outstanding bacteriologist, immunologist and epidemiologist. Anatoly Wasserman called him “a three-time non-winner of the Nobel Prize.” Vladimir Aronovich lived and worked in conditions of anti-Semitism, but still achieved outstanding success. In 1892, he was the first in the world to create an effective killed (that is, containing dead disease cells) vaccine against cholera. The scientist first had to inject himself to prove its effectiveness.

Just four years later, he solved a new problem – he also invented an inactivated plague vaccine. The problems were not purely theoretical – there were epidemics in Europe and Asia. Both vaccines were successfully tested in India on thousands of patients and subsequently became life-saving for many other countries. It is interesting that the fight against the plague was continued by the Soviet bacteriologist Magdalina Petrovna Pokrovskaya. In 1934, she created and successfully tested a live plague vaccine.

A.P. Chekhov about Vladimir Khavkin:  “The plague is not very scary. Firstly, it will not capture a particularly large area, everything will be kept at separate points, secondly, as a devastating force it is no worse than diphtheria or typhoid fever, thirdly, we already have vaccinations that have turned out to be valid and which, by the way, we , are obliged to the Russian doctor Khavkin. In Russia he is the most unknown person, but in England he has long been called a great philanthropist. The biography of this Jew, so hated by the Hindus who almost killed him, is truly remarkable.”

An orthopedist who had no equal

Orthopedic surgeon Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov is known to most for the apparatus he invented for fusion of bones. The scientist’s main developments occurred in the first decade after the victory in the Great Patriotic War, when many returned from the fronts with fractures and damaged limbs. The situation was aggravated by a large number of infectious diseases: Ilizarov’s first prosthesis in 1947 helped the accordion player, who was severely limping from tuberculosis of the knee joint, to walk again fully.

In 1951, the doctor proposed a device for transosseous osteosynthesis. The path to recognition was long: only in 1969 he managed to defend his doctoral dissertation on his development. Three years later, the foreign press started talking about him . In 1982, international recognition finally came: the Italians bought the rights to produce the device from Ilizarov. In the same year, the professor’s method was already tested in other Western European countries. Since 1985, the Ilizarov apparatus has been successfully exported to the countries of North and then South America.

Quote:  “Over the years, [I experience] not only a never-fading, but a constantly growing interest in my profession, my business. And, of course, the sense of responsibility for the results of one’s work, characteristic of a real doctor, the desire to see as many people as possible happy.”

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