Pioneer Surgeon. He received much acclaimed for his pioneer work in the medical field in Russia during the 19th century. Saving hundreds of injured soldiers' lives, he has been given credit in establishing the first field hospital with a triage system during the Crimean War. He raised the standard of care in military hospitals. In 1854 he modified the Scottish surgeon James Syme's Ankle Amputation, which has become a standard operative procedure. Conservatively, he would amputate the lower leg only after a cast could not be used for the fractured bones. He was one of the first to use plaster cast for immobilizing broken bones. He was the first surgeon to use ether as anesthesia during surgery. Quieting the screams of patients during surgery, he developed an apparatus for successfully inhaling ether or giving the drug rectally. He dissected more than 11,000 bodies carefully studying the human anatomy, improving surgical techniques, and naming parts of the human body such as the Pirogov's Triangle in the neck. Using the frigid temperatures of Moscow's winters, he used frozen sections to study human anatomy, and this method is still being performed in modern-day medicine. Between 1852 and 1859 he published four volumes with 224 illustrations of his finds in “Topographical of Anatomy of the Human Body.” Born into a middle-class family of thirteen, his father died before he finished his education. With the encouragement of a family friend, Professor Mukhim at Moscow University, he, at the age of 14, passed the entrance examination to medical school. He stated on the application that he was the required age of 16 to enter the school. At this time, Moscow University was ranked world-wide very low in the standards of medical schools. In May of 1828, he graduated without preforming one surgery. In 1828, he was one of the twenty Russian students accepted at the University of Dorpat in what is present-day Estonia. At first the Russian students were only allowed to learn from books or lectures and not participate in hands-on learning such as experiments. After the professors realized his potential, he was taught anatomy with fresh cadavers with specimen preserved in ethanol. He also performed surgery for the first time and wrote his thesis on the aorta. He became fluent in several languages besides Russian, German and Ukraine. For earning his medical degree in 1832, he was indebted to lecture in Russian universities for several years. From May of 1833 to 1835, he practiced in Berlin, Germany learning techniques that were not taught in the isolated Russian practices. German colleagues were impressed with his knowledge of anatomy. In may of 1835, he left for St. Petersburg but became ill with typhus, thus forfeiting the opportunity to be come Chairman of Surgery at Moscow University. Instead he became a professor returning to the University of Dorpat. He and his students founded the first ophthalmology clinic in the Baltic. In 1841, he accepted the chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Medical-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg. It was at this point he learned of the grave situation in army hospitals. He soon learned that money was being allotted for the care of injured soldiers, but the funds never got to the hospital for supplies, and he took corrective action. With beginning of the Crimean War in 1854, he accepted the position of Surgeon General from the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, who developed the Russian Red Cross with battlefield nurses. After resigning from the military, he became in charge of the professors of Russian universities traveling about the country and outside the country for five years. He supported educating the poor, women and non-Russians, which was not popular. He wrote “The Old Physician's Diary” and “Question of Life” during this time. He had become frustrated with the Russian educational, medical and military system, and relocated to the Ukraine to practice medicine caring for the indigent. He visited the battlefield hospitals of the Franco-Russian War of 1870 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. In 1881 he had a lesion in his mouth that was misdiagnosed as being non-malignant causing him to die within months. Later, it was stated that he would not have withstood the radical surgery and the tumor would have returned if dissected. His remains was successfully preserved with an embalming technique that he had developed. Through the years, he received many honors. In 1847 he became a corresponding member of the Russian-Academy of Sciences and received the Demidov Prize from the academy in 1844, 1851, and 1860. The Pirogov Society was founded four years after his death with the aim of better medical training in Russia. His estate in Vinnytsia, Ukraine became a museum with the family's mausoleum and chapel on the grounds. The 2506 Pirogov Asteroid was discovered in August of 1976 and named in his honor. There are several medical universities and hospitals named for him throughout Russia. In 1960 a Russian postage stamp was issued in his honor.
Bio by: Linda Davis