Russian & Soviet Science and Technology

Biomedical Sciences: Physiology, Medicine, and Public Health

Russia has a particularly rich tradition in physiology and physiological psychology, as the names of I. M. Sechenov, V. M. Bekhterev, and Ivan Pavlov illustrate. David Joravsky’s forthcoming Russian Psychology: A Critical History will treat this subject. Other sources are Daniel Todes, “Biological Psychology and the Tsarist Censor: The Dilemma of Scientific Development,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 1984, 58:529-544. B.P. Babkin, Pavlov (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1949); Y.P. Frolov, Pavlov and His School (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1937); Todes, “From Radicalism to Scientific Convention: Biological Psychology in Russia from Sechenov to Pavlov” (Ph.D;diss., Univ. Pennsylvania, 1981); and James E. Brett, “Materialist Philosophy in 19th-Century Russia: The Physiological Psychology of I. M. Sechenov” (Ph.D. diss. UCLA, 1975).

Two recent works examine doctors’ organizations. The medical society founded in the name of Nikolai Pirogov, one of Russia’s great anatomists, played an important role in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian medicine, and Nancy Mandellrer Frieden has examined its history in Russian Physicians in an Era of Reform and Revolution, 1856-1905 (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981). John P. Hutchtnson has written on professionallsm among Russian doctors in the nineteenth century in “Society, Corporation or Union? Russian Physicians and the Struggle for Professional Unity (1890- 1913),” Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas, 1982, 30(1): 37- 53. Doctors themselves–or at least those who were women–are the focus of Jeanette E. Tuve, The First Russian Women Physicians (Newtonville, Mass.: Oriental Research Partners, 1984).

Interest among Western scholars in the history of Russian and Soviet public health has grown considerably in the last two decades. In 1986 Professor Susan Solomon of the University of Toronto organized a conference on the subject at which over a dozen papers were presented; much of this scholarship has yet to appear in print. One early book that examines public health in tsarist Russia is Roderick McGrew, Russia and the Cholera 1823-1832 (Madison: Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1965). Social historians are particularly interested in health-care delivery in nineteenth-century rural Russia; among recent works are Peter Krug, “The Debate over the Delivery of Health Care in Rural Russia: The Moscow Zemstvo, 1864-1878,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1976, 50:226-241; and two articles by Samuel Ramer: “Who Was the Russian Feldsher,” Bulletin of the History ofMedicine, 1976, 50:213-235, and “Childbirth and Culture: Midwifery in the Nineteenth Century Russian Countryside,” in The Family in Imperial Russia: New Lines of Historical Research, edited by David L. Ransel (Urbana: Univ. Illinois Press,1978), pp.218-235.

Early studies of Soviet medicine tended to be largely laudatory. See, for example, Henry E. Sigerist, Socialized Medicine in the Soviet Union (New York: Norton, 1937). A more critical and well-researched approach is found in Mark G. Field, Doctor and Patient in Soviet Russia (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1957); and in his Soviet Socialized Medicine: An Introduction (New York: Free Press, 1967). A book that includes considerable history is Gordon Hyde, The Soviet Health Service: An Historical and Comparative Study (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1974). A good historical study of early Soviet public health is Christopher Davis, “Economic Problems of the Soviet Health Service: 1917-1930,” Soviet Studies, 1983, 35(3):343-361.

Two other medical topics are covered in Julie V. Brown, “The Professionalization of Russian Psychiatry, 1857-1911” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Pennsylvania, 1981), which looks at the history of Russian psychiatry from a sociological viewpoint; and John F. Hutchinson, “Tsarist Russia and the Bacteriological Revolution,” Joumal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 1985, 40(4):420-439, on intellectual, professional, and political resistance to and acceptance of bacteriology up to the 1905 Revolution.

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