Medical Societies

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Medical Societies


voluntary associations of physicians and other specialists engaged in medical and public health research and practice.

Abroad. The first independent medical society was the Royal Academy of Surgery, founded in Paris in 1731. Under the leadership of the well-known surgeons F. de la Peyronie and J. Marechal, the Academy established communications with almost all provincial areas, attracted physicians to work in those locations, and collected and published scientific information and memoirs, which in toto, constituted an extensive surgical encyclopedia. A medical society was established in New York during the War of Independence in North America (1775-83). In 1773 a medical society was established in London.

A society of anatomists and pharmacists was founded in Paris in 1803, and the Royal Society of Medicine was established in London in 1805. The Hunter Medical Society was organized in Columbia (USA) in 1808, and the Harveian Society was established in London in 1831. The Royal Medical Society in Vienna, established in 1837, played an important role in the development of medicine. The German Society for Scientists and Doctors (first congress, 1822 in Leipzig) had a great deal of influence on the development of medicine in many countries.

Many specialized societies were founded in the second half of the 19th century. The first society of epidemiologists was organized in London in 1850; the first society of obstetricians, in London in 1852; and the first society of opthalmologists, in Germany in 1863. A number of other specialized medical societies were formed in Great Britain, including a society of clinical medicine (1867), a physiologists’ society (1876), and a society of anesthesiologists (1893). A society for the control of venereal diseases (1902) and a society of tropical medicine (1907) were established in Germany.

Since the beginning of the 20th century there has been a trend toward the creation of international associations. The first of these international groups was a dental federation (London, 1900), and four other international societies were established by World War I: for surgeons (1902; headquarters in Brussels); for ophthalmologists (1904; headquarters in Paris); for pediatrics (1912; headquarters in Zürich); and for tropical medicine and malaria (1913; headquarters in London).

An additional 13 international associations were founded between 1920 and the beginning of World War II. An international society for the history of medicine (Belgium) and an international antituberculosis league (Paris) were established in 1920. In 1923 an international union for the control of venereal diseases was organized in Paris. Three international associations were founded in 1928: for the control of rheumatism (USA), for sports medicine (Italy), and for otolaryngology (USA). International organizations for the prevention of blindness (Paris), for aid to invalids (New York), and for orthopedics and traumatology (Brussels) were founded in 1929.

The growing incidence of cancer and the need to coordinate the forces studying it resulted in the organization of an international union to fight cancer (1934; headquarters in Paris). An international society of gastroenterologists was formed in 1935 in Belgium; an international association of surgeons, in 1935 in the USA; and an international association of specialists in forensic and social medicine, in 1938 in Italy.

A world medical association (New York) and an international society of clinical pathologists (Great Britain) were founded in 1947. A world federation on mental hygiene (Great Britain) and an international society of internal medicine (Switzerland) were established in 1948, and an international federation for diabetes was founded in 1949 (the Netherlands). Associations of cardiologists (Geneva) and gerontologists (London) were founded in 1950. An international union of physiologists (USA) and an international federation of societies of anesthesiologists were established in 1953. (The latter was organized on the initiative of Great Britain.)

A council of international organizations on the medical sciences was created in 1949 (headquarters first in Brussels and later in Paris). As of 1973, the council was composed of a total of more than 50 international associations and medical societies, represented mostly by the USSR and the other socialist countries.

In Russia and the USSR. Social medicine developed in Russia on the initiative of progressive scientists. The Free Economic Society, founded in 1765, was dedicated from the beginning to spreading the knowledge of hygiene. In the 1830’s the society began to devote equal attention to lowering infant mortality.

There were seven societies of physicians in Russia by the middle of the 19th century. The official founding of the Society of Russian Physicians, which served as a model for more than 50 provincial medical societies, took place in Moscow in 1861. Later, specialized medical societies of internists, surgeons, gynecologists, and ophthalmologists grew out of the Society of Russian Physicians.

Among the most distinguished Russian medical societies were the N. I. Pirogov Society of Russian Physicians (known as the Pirogov Society; 1885) and the Russian Society for the Protection of Public Health (1877). Societies of specialists emerged toward the end of the 19th century—a psychiatric society in St. Petersburg, a surgical society in Moscow, and the Moscow Hygiene Society. At the beginning of the 20th century, members of medical societies established the League for the Control of Tuberculosis and a society for lowering infant mortality. There were about 150 official provincial societies of physicians.

Among the principal goals of medical societies in the USSR is the promotion of the scientific development of the theory and practice of medicine on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, with the emphasis depending on the character of the medical society. The societies work to improve the qualifications and expand the specialized knowledge of their members. Other important aims are ideological education, the dissemination of the best traditions of Soviet medicine and natural science, and the spread of information on progress in medical science among the members of the medical community and the public. In addition, the tasks of the societies include active participation in putting into practice the achievements of medical research in public health, in raising the quality of medical care, in cooperating in the establishment and development of international scientific communication; and in generalizing the work of experienced practicing physicians and that of innovators in public health.

By 1973, 36 all-Union medical societies had been established in the USSR, including societies of obstetricians and gynecologists; anatomists, histologists, and embryologists; and anesthesiologists and rheumatologists. In addition, there are all-Union societies of medical laboratory research personnel; workers in medical monitoring and therapeutic physical education; gastroenterologists; gerontologists and geriatrists; hygienists; pediatricians; and dermatologists and venereologists. There are societies of specialists in infectious diseases, medical historians, cardiologists, medical technologists, neuropathologists and psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, nephrologists, oncologists, otorhinolaryngologists, and ophthalmologists. In addition, there are societies of pathoanatomists, pathophysiologists, rheumatologists, roentgenologists and radiologists, stomatologists, forensic physicians, internists, traumatologists and orthopedists, and urologists. The list was completed by societies of pharmacologists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and health resort specialists, phthisiologists, surgeons, epidemiologists and microbiologists, and endocrinologists.

As of 1974, the membership of the all-Union medical societies included more than 300,000 medical scientists and practicing physicians (about 45 percent of all physicians). As many as 80 percent of the specialists were members of separate specialized societies (of otorhinolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and venereologists, forensic physicians, and so forth). The All-Union Medical Society of Internists had more than 30,000 members; the pediatrics society, more than 28,000; the surgical society, about 15,000; the phthisiologists’ society,. 16,000; the society of neuropathologists and psychiatrists, 18,000; the society of hygienists, 12,000; the society of epidemiologists and microbiologists, 17,000; the stomatological society, 25,000; and the society of pharmacists, 35,000. Medical societies are active in the Union republics, oblasts, krais, and cities.

The legal foundations of the work of the All-Union Medical Society are set down in the Standard Code of the All-Union Medical Society, which defines the interval between all-Union congresses and conferences of societies (six years; for republic societies, four years). In addition to the all-Union congresses, it is considered advisable to conduct joint congresses (conferences) of a number of all-Union societies on common problems in the medical sciences, as well as inter-republic congresses on particular specialties. Between 1958 and 1970, 33 all-Union congresses and 46 all-Union conferences of medical societies were held. The leadership of the all-Union societies is drawn from the foremost medical scientists. The chairmen of the all-Union scientific societies include Academician B. V. Petrovskii and academicians of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR A. I. Nesterov, V. M. Zhdanov, P. E. Lukomskii, E. M. Tareev, V. G. Baranov, V. Kh. Vasilenko, F. G. Krotkov, and L. S. Persianinov.

Soviet medical societies belong to 28 international associations (1973).

The Council of Scientific Medical Societies, an organization under the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR that conducts its work gratis on a voluntary basis, was organized in 1961 to coordinate the activities of the all-Union societies. The council, which consists of delegates from the presidiums of all of the all-Union medical societies, renders considerable assistance to the Scientific Medical Council of the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR in solving general problems of the all-Union societies. The Council of Scientific Societies coordinates the plenums of the all-Union societies and examines and ratifies their programs.


Nauchnye meditsinskie obshchestva SSSR. Edited by M. V. Volkov. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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