Burdenko, Nicolai Nilovich

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Burdenko, Nicolai Nilovich

(b. Kamenka [near Penza], Russia, 3 June 1876; d. Moscow, U.S.S.R., 11 November 1964)


Burdenko was born into a village family of some education. From 1886 to 1890 he studied at the Penza parochial school and from 1891 to 1897 was a student in the seminary there. In 1897 he entered the Tomsk University Medical School, transferring in 1901 to the Yuriev University (Tartu) Medical School, from which he graduated in 1906. As a student he was greatly influenced by the ideas of Nikolai Ivanovich Pirogov and the works of Pavlov. In 1903 he joined V.G. Tsego Manteifel’s surgical clinic. In 1909, after presenting his doctoral thesis “Materialy k voprosu o posledstviakh perevyazki venaeportae” (“Data on the Effects of Dressing the Venae Portae”), he was employed in laboratories, clinics, hospitals, and libraries in Germany and Switzerland. He learned the surgical methods of August Bier, O. Hildebrandt, F. Krause, and Hermann Oppenheim. Under Constantin von Monakow, in Zurich, he studied anatomy and the histology of the central nervous system and neurological surgery.

After 1910 he held the chair of assistant professor of surgery at Yuriev University and became adjunct professor of surgery and anatomy. After the death of Tsego Manteifel, in 1917, he was professor ordinarius at the school’s surgical clinic. From 1918 to 1923 he headed the Voronezh Medical Institute’s surgical clinic and in 1923 he was appointed to the chair of anatomy and surgery at the Moscow State University Institute. From 1924 to the end of his life he devoted himself to organizing the clinic’s neurological department. After 1929 he was director of the neurological clinic of the Health Ministry’s roentgenology institute; this was the precursor of the Central Neurosurgical Institute (founded in 1934), which is today the Burdenko Neurosurgical Institute of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Medical Sciences. Burdenko further made use of his experiences in three wars (the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, and World War II) to lay the basis for Soviet military field surgery.

Burdenko wrote more than 300 articles on clinical and theoretical medicine. His earliest clinicoexperimental research was concerned with the physiology of the liver, the duodenum, the stomach, and the pancreas; his later work deals with a wide variety of problems in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, histology, and pathology. He was a pioneer of Soviet neurosurgery (and especially of an important school of surgery that is marked by its readiness to experiment) and the teacher of the first generation of Soviet neurosurgeons. He made contributions to the oncology of the central nervous system; and the vegetative nervous system; to the pathology and circulation of the blood and the fluids, edema and swelling of the brain; and to the operative treatment of various serious conditions of the nervous system.

Burdenko held many honorary posts. After 1939 he was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the U.S.S.R. College of Surgeons and after 1937, Chairman of the Medical Sciences Council of the U.S.S.R. Ministry of Health. He was the first president of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Medical Sciences, editor of Sovremennaya khirurgiya from 1944 to 1946, editor of Neirokhirurgia, and a member of the editorial board of Khirurgiya and Voenno-meditsinskii zhurnal. He was an honorary member of the International Society of Surgeons, the British Royal Society of Surgeons, and the Paris Academy of Surgeons. He was a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. and a Hero of Socialist Labor.


Burdenko’s collected works have been published in seven volumes (Moscow, 1950–1952). See also C.M. Bagdasarian, Nikolai Nilovich Burdenko (Moscow, 1954).

N. A. Grigorian

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