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 Alexander Bakulev

Born:   8 December 1890
Deceased:   31 March 1967

great surgeon


Alexander Bakulev, eminent Russian surgeon, was born in 1890 to the family of peasants. Having 10 brothers and sisters, Alexander early leant what hard work meant. Alexander was a very dedicated learner, and his teacher helped the boy to systematize knowledge and to enter the gymnasium. At those tomes peasant children weren’t welcomed in schools, but the boy was so gifted and passed exams so good, he was granted admission as an exception.

In the senior classes Alexander decided to become a doctor, since he saw how vulnerable people were in front of various diseases. In 1911 Bakulev graduated from the gymnasium and wanted to continue studies. He first wanted to go to Kazan University, but people said that Saratov University, which had just opened, had good teachers, and the city itself had low living costs. Well, the choice was made, and Saratov managed the expectations of the young man.

The teaching staff was brilliant. Bakulev, who dreamt about surgery, kept in mind words of great surgeon Pirogov, who said that road to surgery passed through anatomy theatre. Alexander was extremely attentive at anatomy and became a dedicated student of professor Spasokukotsky.


When World War I began, Bakulev, who was 4th year student at tat time, worked in Saratov surgical hospital and assisted during operations. In 1915 he was called up for military service as a doctor. Before leaving to front, Bakulev came to say goodbye to his teacher, professor Spasokukotsky, who made Alexander promise not to practice surgery until he got back from the war – the far-sighted professor didn’t want his favourite student to obtain incorrect surgery habits. Bakulev kept his word.

Alexander Bakulev returned to Saratov in 1917 and, after passing al necessary examinations, received doctor’s diploma and continued working with professor Spasokukotsky. However, the civil war began, and Bakulev again joined the army. In 1922, when all military operations were finally over, Bakulev returned to Saratov and started working on the desired position, long way to which took 7 years. The surgeon moved to the clinic, which allowed him to make an enormous progress in surgery in a quite a short time.

In 1926 Bakulev’s teacher was offered a department in Second Moscow University, which later became known as Second Medical Institute named after Pirogov. Alexander followed his teacher to Moscow, where he took a position of an assistant of the same department. Bakulev was a versatile surgeon. While in Saratov, Alexander Bakulev became one of the best experts in the field of diagnostics of brain diseases by means of encephalography. In Moscow Bakulev continued working in neurosurgery, and in 1928 he went to Germany to exchange knowledge.

Bakulev’s doctor thesis was dedicated to various techniques of curing brain abscesses. His studies were of great use during World War II, when head injuries often had complications. Bakulev was also a great help to patients with gastric and duodenal ulcer – he suggested vagotomy (resection (removal of, or at least severing) of part of the vagus nerve), which is now widely used all over the world. However, Bakulev’s most famous works are surgical treatment of intrathoracic organs. Alexander Bakulev was the first in Russia, who successfully removed a lung with a chronic abscess. It happened in 1945.

Bakulev wrote a book “Pulmonectomy and lobectomy”, which became a bible for pulmonary surgeons. But the genius didn’t stop – he turned to even more delicate field: surgical treatment of heart defects. First patient with congenital heart defect was a 15-year-old girl, who undergone surgery, which saved her life, in 1948. In 1952 Bakulev was the first Russian surgeon to treat acquired heart valvular disease, known as mitral stenosis. Enormous surgery practice allowed Alexander to write two books on heart surgery. In 1956 Bakulev’s clinic hosted the Institute of Thoracic Surgery, now known as the Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery named after Bakulev.

Alexander Bakulev also contributed to two very important problems of heart health – he developed surgical treatment of acute myocardial infarction and cardiac electric stimulation. Bakulev deserved to be called “a father of Russian cardiac and cardiovascular surgery”. Bakulev had incredible working capacity – he was an editor-in-chief of Big Medical Encyclopedia, 36 volumes of which came of the press between 1957 and 1964. Since 1948 Alexander Bakulev was a full member of the academy of Medical Sciences, and in 1958 the surgeon became a full member of Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Eminent surgeon had numerous orders and medals, and was an honourable member of many scientific and medical societies around the world. Alexander Bakulev died in 1967, leaving the world with a hope.


Tags: Russian medics     

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