Botkin, Sergei

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Botkin, Sergei Petrovich


Born Sept. 5 (17), 1832, in Moscow; died Dec. 12 (24), 1889, in Mentona. Russian physiciantherapeutist, founder of the physiologic school of clinical medicine, and public figure.

Botkin was born into the family of a prominent tea merchant. His brother, V. P. Botkin, along with T. N. Granovskii and the professor P. L. Pikulin, a medical scientist who was a member of the Herzen circle in the 1840’s, exerted great influence on Botkin. In 1855 he graduated from the medical department of Moscow University; from 1861 he was a professor at the therapeutic clinic of the Medico-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg. In 1855 he participated in the Crimean campaign with N. I. Pirogov’s detachment. He spent about seven months on the Balkan front in 1877 during the Russo-Turkish War.

Botkin was one of the founders of scientific clinical medicine. He was the first to create in Russia an experimental laboratory, where he studied the physiologic and pharmacologic effects of drugs. In studying the development of pathologic processes in the body (aortic aneurysm, nephritis, trophic skin changes, and so forth), he reproduced them in animals. His views, which were formed under the influence of classical Russian philosophy, proceeded from the materialist understanding of the organism as a whole, which finds itself inseparably bound to its surrounding medium and governed by the nervous system. He created a new school in medicine which I. P. Pavlov called “nervism.” Botkin was the first to express the idea of the specificity of protein structure in various organs. He established the infectious character of the disease viral hepatitis, earlier known as “catarrhal jaundice,” and he elaborated the diagnosis and treatment of floating kidney. Botkin’s clinicotheoretical views are most fully set forth in the three parts of A Clinical Course in Internal Diseases (St. Petersburg, 1867–75). He also published the journals Archives of Professor S. P. Botkin’s Clinic of Internal Diseases (1869–89) and The Weekly Clinical Gazette (1881–89).

Botkin was active in the struggle for equal rights for women. In 1872 he participated in the organization of medical courses for women. In 1861 he opened the first free outpatient treatment in history, at his own clinic. In 1878 he was elected chairman of the Society of Russian Physicians in Memory of N. I. Pirogov, and he remained in that post until the end of his life. He was the first in Russia to successfully construct a free hospital, which opened in 1880 (Aleksandrov Encampment Hospital, now the S. P. Botkin Hospital). He founded an institute of sanitary inspectors and elaborated measures for improving sanitary conditions and lowering mortality in Russia (1886). Among Botkin’s students are 85 doctors of science, including A. A. Nechaev, M. V. Ianovskii, N. Ia. Chistovich, I. P. Pavlov, A. G. Polotebnov, T. P. Pavlov, and N. P. Simanovskii. Botkin is buried in St. Petersburg.


Kurs kliniki vnutrennikh boleznei i klinicheskie lektsii, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1950.


Borodulin, F. R. S. P. Botkin i nevrogennaia teoriia meditsiny, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1953.
Farber, V. B. Sergei Petrovich Botkin (1832–1889). Leningrad, 1948.