Pirogov, Nikolay Ivanovich

views updated May 18 2018


(b. Moscow, russia, 25 November 1810; d. Vishnya, Jkraine, Russia, 5 December 1881)

Surgery, anatomy.

The son of a major in the commissary service, Pirogov grew up in fairly cultured surroundings, learned to read early, and was fluent in foreign languages as a child. In 1824 the family was left without means and the father died suddenly. Pirogov might have become a civil servant; but Efrem Mukhin, the family physician, who was professor of surgery and anatomy at Moscow University, arranged for him to be admitted to the Medical faculty at Moscow, even though Pirogov was then only forteen and the entrance age was sixteen.

Pirogov chose surgery as his specialty; but during his four years at the university he was present at only two operations and did not perform any himself. Nevertheless, he received a good general theoretical preparation. After graduating in 1828, he was sent, with Mukhin’s advice and help, for a teaching career at Dorpat (now Tartu) University, where the professorial institute ws being established. He studied surgery and anatomy under the direction of J. F. Moier and in 1832 defended his doctoral dissertation, on the ligation of the ventral aorta. In this important work, which was soon published in a German translation, Pirogov tried not only to imporve the technical procedure of the operation but also to explain how the body reacts to it.

From 1833 to 1835 Pirogov visited the leading German clinics and observed the existing state of surgery. He became convinced that without special study of anatomy and physiology, surgery℄even with the most advanced technique℄could never rise to the level of a science but would remain an art. Upon his return to Russia, Pirogov found that the chair of surgery at Moscow University that he himself had hoped to win was occupied; thus, in 1836, he accepted the post of professor of surgery at Dorpat. Although he was only twenty-six, his reputation was already substantial. A work publishd the following year laid the foundation of surgical anatomy.

From 1841 to 1856 Pirogov headed the department of surgery and the surgical clinic, founded on his initiative, at the 1,000–bed hospital of the St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy. He also taught pathological anatomy and founded a museum of anatomical pathology at the Academy. Working in an unhealed, poorly lit basement that was the anatomical theater of the Academy, Pirogov lectured and performed countless operations and 12,000 dissections in anatomical pathology. During this time he spent about three years in military service, organizing and providing medical aid to the wounded. In 1847 he developed a theory of the action and use of anesthetic and, before using it on a patient, tested it on himself. He was the first to introduce anesthetic through the rectum, and in his clinic choloroform was first used in Russia. He also originated the intravenous administration of anesthetic ether. Pirogov was the first to use ether under battle conditions (1847); and in 1854–1855, during the siege of Sevastopol, he introduced the mass use of anesthetic in surgical operations at the front.

Pirogov’s work on topographical anatomy (1851–1859) laid a firm foundation for that field as a special area of science having great practical significance for surgery. The work was followed by his discovery of new methods of anatomical research; the study of the forms and relative positions of the organs by dissecting frozen cadavers and removing organs from them. Both these extremely simple methods opened previously unknown possibilities for precisely determining the forms and positions of organs and tissues. Pirogov’s work comprised four volumes of drawings of organs and tissues in their natural relative positions and an explanatory text. It immediately received widespread recognition and enhanced his reputation as a distinguished surgeon and anatomist.

During the Crimean War, Pirogov organized medical aid and developed the basic principles of field surgery. The first to use plaster casts, he conceived the technique in 1851 while observing the work of a sculptor. His experiences in field surgery, published in German in 1864, became a standard reference.

In 1856 Pirogov returned to St. Petersburg. Irritated by conditions at the Medical-Surgical Academy, he retired permanently from teaching and hospital work. In the same year Pirogov published a paper on the problems of pedagogy, which produced a great impression. He condemned the restrictions on education for the poor and for non-Russians and supported education for women. He also came out against early specialization and advocated the development of secondary schools. After the death of Nicholas I, Pirogov was appointed director of school affairs for the south of Russia. He came into conflict with the governor-general of Odessa and in 1858 was transferred to the same post in Kiev. He was forced to retire three years later and settled on his estate in the southern Ukraine. In 1862 he was named director of a group of young Russian scientists sent abroad to prepare for professorships. After Garibaldi had been severely wounded in the leg in August 1862 during the battle of Aspromonte, Pirogov attended him and recommended a successful method of cure. After his return to Russia in 1866, Pirogov lived almost exclusively on his estate, which he left for prolonged periods only twice: in 1870, when he traveled to the battlefields of the Franco-Prussian War as a representative of the Russian Red Cross; and in 1877, when he served as a surgeon in the Russo-Turkish War for the independence of Bulgaria.

Pirogov’s other achievements include a procedure for amputation of the shin that retained the calcaneal bone; improved methods of tying the major blood vessels for hemostasis; a classic description of shock; the use—before the introduction of antisepsis—of spirit of camphor, aqueous solution of chlorine, or tincture of iodine to combat the festering of wounds; and the demonstration of the importance of diet in treating the wounded.

Pirogov is considered a founder of contemporary surgery and topographical anatomy, and I. P. Pavlov credited him with placing surgery on a scientific basis.


I. Original Works. Recent collections of Pirogov’s writings are Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineney (“Selected Pedagogical Works” Moscow, 1953); and Sobranie sochiney (“Collected Works”) , 8 vols. (Moscow, 1957℃1962). Important works published during his lifetime 1957℃1962). Important works published during his lifetime are Anatomiaa topographica. . ., 4 vols. (Petropoli, 1851℃1859); and Grundzüge der allgemeinen Kriegschirurgie (Leipzig, 1864), translated into Russian as Nachala obschey voennopolevoy khirurgii (“The Principles of General Military Field surger”), 2 vols. (Dresden, 1865℃1866)

II. Secondary Literature. See N. N. Burdenko, “N. I. Pirogov—osnovopolozhinik voenno-polevoy khirugii” (N. I. Pirogov—Founder of Military Field Surgery”) in pirogov’s Nachala obshchey voenno-polevoy khirurgii (“Beginnings of General Military Field Surger”) I (Moscow, 1914, 9℃42; A. M. Geselevich and Y. I. Smirnov, N. I. pirogov (Moscow, 1960); A. N. Maksimenkov, N. I. pirogov (Leningrad, 1961); and I. G. Rufanov, N. I. Pirogov—veliky russky khirurg i ucheny (“N. I. Pirogov—Great Russian Surgeon and Scientist” Moscow, 1956).

S. R. Mikulinsky

Pirogov, Nikolai Ivanovich

views updated May 23 2018


(18101881), scientist, physician, proponent of educational reform.

Nikolai Pirogov was born in Moscow where his father managed a military commissary. After graduating from the medical school of Moscow University, he enrolled at the Professors' Institute at Dorpat University to prepare for teaching in institutions of higher education. In Dorpat he specialized in surgical techniques and in pathological anatomy and physiology. After five years at Dorpat, he went to Berlin University in search of the latest knowledge in anatomy and surgical techniques. While in Berlin he was appointed a professor at Dorpat, where he quickly acquired a reputation as a successful contributor to anatomy and an innovator in surgery. In 18371839 he published Surgical Anatomy of Arterial Trunks and Fasciae in Latin and German.

In 1841 Pirogov accepted a teaching position at the Medical and Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg, the most advanced school of its kind in Russia. He lectured on clinical service in hospitals and pathological and surgical anatomy. His major work published under the auspices of the Medical and Surgical Academy was the four-volume Anatomia Topographica (18511854) describing the spatial relations of organs and tissues in various planes. He was also the author of General Military Field Surgery (1864), relying heavily on his experience in the Crimean War (18531855). In recognition of his scholarly achievement, the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences elected him a corresponding member.

Tired of petty academic quarrels and intrigues, Pirogov resigned from his professorial position in 1856. In the same year he published "The Questions of Life," an essay emphasizing the need for a reorientation of the country's educational system. The article touched on many pedagogical problems of broader social significance, but the emphasis was on an educational philosophy that placed equal emphasis on the transmission of specialized knowledge and the acquisition of general education fortified by increased command of foreign languages. He also pointed out that, because of the low salaries, Russian teachers were compelled to look for additional employment, which limited their active involvement in the educational process. In his opinion, one of the most pressing tasks of the Russian government was to make the entire school system accessible to all social strata and ethnic groups.

The government not only listened to Pirogov's plea for a broader humanistic base of the educational system, but in the same year appointed him superintendent of the Odessa school district. Two years later, he became the superintendent of the Kiev school district. In his numerous circulars and published reports he advocated a greater participation of teachers' councils in decisions on all aspects of the educational process.

Apprehensive of the long list of his liberal reforms, the Ministry of Public Education decided in 1861 to ask Pirogov to resign from his high post in education administration. His dismissal provoked a series of rebellious demonstrations by Kiev University students.

Pirogov's government service, however, did not come to an end. In 1862 he was assigned the challenging task of organizing and supervising the education of Russian students enrolled in Western universities. In 1866 the government again retired him; the current minister of public education thought that the supervision of foreign education could be done more effectively by a "philologist" than by a "surgeon."

In 1881 a large group of scholars gathered in Moscow to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Pirogov's engagement in science. Four years later, an even larger group founded the Pirogov Society of Russian Physicians with a strong interest in social medicine. It was not unusual for the periodic conventions of the Society to be attended by close to two thousand persons.

See also: education


Frieden, Nancy M. (1981). Russian Physicians in an Era of Reform and Revolution, 18561905. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Vucinich, Alexander. (19631970). Science in Russian Culture, vols. 12. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Alexander Vucinich

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