Founders of Russian neurology and psychiatry and their brains

Alla A. VEIN
Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands
a.a.vein AT

The search for the biological roots of extraordinary capacities counts many centuries. From the eighteenth through the twentieth century there was a particular interest in brain with its extraordinary convolutions. Russian scientists were among the energetic participants in the search of neuroanatomical equivalents of exceptional mental capacities and talents. Conventionally it is thought that collecting and mapping the brains of famous Russian persons began in Moscow in 1924, starting with V.I. Lenin’s brain and the foundation of the Moscow Brain Research Institute. later in 1927, V.M. Bekhterev came with the idea of founding the Soviet Pantheon of Brains. However, the actual collection of ‘great brains’ began much earlier at the universities. Among other celebrities the collections of medical faculties contained the brains of medical professors, many of whom, according to existing tradition at the time, bequeathed their brains for the scientific purpose.

The Neurological Institute of Moscow University preserved the brain of two eminent scholars: the founders of the Moscow schools of psychiatry and neurology professors Sergey Korsakov (1854-1900) and Aleksey Kozhevnikov (1836-1902). It is fascinating that the initiative of founding the Neurological institute was taken by Kozhevnikov and was later accomplished by his pupils in 1913.

The report on the dissections of the brains of Korsakov and Kozhevnikov was published by A.A. Kaputsin in 1926 in the journal Clinical Archive of Genius and Talent (of Europathology), founded and edited by G.V. Segalin in Ekaterinburg (the Urals). The report consisted of the detailed neuroanatomical assessment of the brains. The author also commented on the common features of both brains: they exceeded the average weight value with the undoubted predominance of the left hemisphere and with highly developed convolutions of frontal and parietal lobes.

Later on the collection of the famous brains was enriched by the brains of other famous Russian neuroscientists, including V.M. Bekhterev, G.I. Rossolimo, L.S. Vygotsky, and I.P. Pavlov.

Session VIII.  Sources (Books and Brains)
Friday, 22 June 2007, 10:00 - 10:30 am

12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences   (ISHN)
Los Angeles, California, USA, 19-23 June 2007