Founder of field surgery

Everything fine and beautiful in life, science and art was created by a fantasising mind.

I have lived for 70 years. In the history of human progress it is a blink of an eye. Still, I have lived through so many systems in medicine and education. Each of these manifestations of the one-sided mind and fantasy was practiced for several years, exciting my contemporaries – and eventually stepped down from the pedestal defeated by another manifestation that was just as one-sided. Now, when I see a new system I can quote an old bureaucrat who, in response to a governor’s question “How long have you served?” said: “Your Excellency, I have had the honour to outlive twenty governors.”*

For a doctor seeking faith, the hardest thing is to believe in immortality and the afterlife. First of all, because the main object of medical science and all medical practice is the human body – which fails so soon. And secondly, because every day doctors see the evidence of the mind being entirely subservient to the body.

As I joined the faculty, I made it my rule to never conceal anything from my students. If I cannot do so immediately, I will sooner or later admit my mistake, be it in diagnosis or in treatment.

A one-sided specialist is either a rugged empiricist or a street charlatan.

Contempt for one’s mother tongue denigrates national pride.

Everything fine and beautiful in life, science and art was created by a daydreaming mind and many things – by conscious daydreaming. You can be sure that neither Copernicus nor Newton would have attained their place in science without the imagination.

“A nation that had its own Pirogov can be proud because this name means an entire period in medicine. The fundamental principles introduced by Pirogov to anatomy and surgery will remain a perpetual contribution that cannot be erased from the annals as long as European science exists, until the very last sound of the eloquent Russian speech fades.” Nikolai Sklifosovsky

* The information is based on the accounts of the personas featuring in this section as well as accounts of their family members, acquaintances and colleagues