Surgical neurology in UK and USSR in 1920s-1930s : a comparative study


Paediatric Neurosurgery, Russian Postgraduate Medical Academy, Fadeeva Str. 5-21, Moscow 125047, Russia


Neurosurgery in the Soviet Russia was developing at Neurosurgical Research Institutes in Leningrad (1926) and Moscow (1932) as a complex speciality in connection with the allied sciences. The huge referal area made it possible to develop subspecialities (paediatric neurosurgery, vascular and functional neurosurgery) by organising special departments within these Institutes. In 1937, the first Russian neurosurgical periodical Voprosy neurochirurgii was launched. According to Nikolai Burdenko (1876-1946), neurosurgical interventions were viewed as experiments on humans in order to confirm the neurophysiological concepts of Pavlov and Bekhterev. They had to follow three basic principles : anatomical availability, technical possibility and physiological permissibility.

In the 1920ies neurosurgery was nearly non-existent on British Isles. The key figures of British neurosurgery (G. Jefferson, H. Cairns, N. Dott and P. Ross) spent a year in Boston with Harvey Cushing before resolving to devote themselves to neurosurgery. Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961) was a driving force in the creating the Society of British Neurological Surgeons (SBNS) in December 1926. This society was copied from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, established in 1920 by Harvey Cushing in USA. SBNS was initially limited to 15 surgeons and was rather a private convival club in order to "rub over the sharp corners of life" (Jefferson) than a scientific body. It comprised a striking contrast to a highly centralised pyramidal structure of Soviet neurosurgery.


Panel 3B   (Evolution and Dissolution)
Tuesday, 14 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999