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(dûrmətŏl`əjē), branch of medicinemedicine,
the science and art of treating and preventing disease. History of Medicine
Ancient Times

Prehistoric skulls found in Europe and South America indicate that Neolithic man was already able to trephine, or remove disks of bone from, the skull
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 concerned with diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the skinskin,
the flexible tissue (integument) enclosing the body of vertebrate animals. In humans and other mammals, the skin operates a complex organ of numerous structures (sometimes called the integumentary system) serving vital protective and metabolic functions.
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. Dermatologists also study the structure and function of the skin, and the relationship between skin pathologies and malfunctions of other organs of the body. Dermatology often overlaps the practice of other medical specialties, e.g., neurology and internal medicine.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of the structure and physiological functions of the skin, the causes and course of skin diseases, and the methods of diagnosing, treating, and preventing them.

Dermatology is closely related to venereology, infectious pathology (internal and external eruptions), pediatrics (infectious diseases of childhood that involve rashes, such as measles, rubella, and scarlet fever), internal medicine (for example, pruritis in uremia and diabetes), allergology (for example, hives) endocrinology (myxedema, Addison’s disease), surgery (for example, carbuncles), obstetrics and gynecology (pregnancy and climacteric dermatoses), neuropathology (leprosy, syringomyelia), and opthalmology. Dermatological problems are studied by histological, histochemical, physiological, immunological, microbiological, biochemical , experimental, endocrinological, physical, and clinical methods.

The accessibility of manifestations of skin diseases to detailed investigation and long-term observation makes it possible to study a number of complex medical and physiological problems, including immunobiological processes, allergy, sensitization , reactivity of the body, and the state of certain internal organs.

Skin diseases, or dermatoses, have been known since ancient times (since 3000 B.C.). Isolated descriptions of skin diseases and methods of treatment can be found in Egyptian papyruses, Chinese manuscripts, and Russian chronicles. Arab physicians made an important contribution to the study and treatment of skin diseases (10th—12th centuries, greatly influencing European physicians), as did the Middle Asian scientist Avicenna (10th-11th century), who described several diseases and paid a great deal of attention to the study of cosmetics. The origin of scientific dermatology dates from the end of the 18th century. In 1776 the Austrian physician I. Plenck and in 1798 the English physician R. Willan devised the first classification of skin diseases based on a morphological principle (that is, on the external manifestation of the diseases). In the 19th century the head of the Viennese (German) dermatological school F. Hebra and his student M. Kaposi developed a pathologoanatomical classification (1845). In France, J. Alibert and later A. Bazin and H. Hardy countered the conception of Hebra and Kaposi with a humoral theory of the origin of dermatoses (that is, through body fluids) that later served as the foundation of the pathogenetic approach in dermatology. They also found diatheses to be significant in the origin of skin diseases. The etiological approach (that is, based on a study of causes) succeeded the morphological at the end of the 19th century in connection with the rapid development of bacteriology. E. Vidal in France laid the foundation for experimental dermatology, and new methods of treatment were sought, such as phototherapy and roentgenotherapy.

In the 20th century, dermatology developed mainly through experimental and clinical study of the internal patterns and mechanisms of development of dermatoses. The great German dermatologist J. Jadassohn (1863-1936) worked out a number of the most important problems of the mechanism of development of various dermatoses, skin reactions, sensitization, allergy, and immunity.

In Russia skin diseases were regarded since the first appearance of the science as pathological changes caused by the state of the nervous system and internal organs, as well as by environmental factors. The father of dermatology in Russia was A. G. Polotebnov, who, together with T. P. Pavlov, A. I. Pospelov, V. V. Ivanov, and P. V. Nikol’skii, emphasized the physiological aspects of dermatology and studied skin diseases with the assumption that the skin is an organ closely interacting with the body as a whole. T. P. Pavlov , who developed the idea of nervism, combined clinical diagnosis with fine histological analysis. All of Nikol’skii’s work is permeated with the idea of the integrity of the organism, taking a physiological approach to the study of skin diseases.

Advances in allergology, immunology, chemistry, biochemistry , microbiology, biology, and other sciences contributed to the progress of dermatology in the 20th century. Modern dermatology is working out the details of the theory of the structure and physiology of the skin; it also studies changes in the skin in various neurological and endocrine disturbances and in allergic and immunological shifts; it is concerned with certain viral, fungal, and neoplastic diseases of the skin, and it substantiates various methods of treating skin diseases and applies them in clinical practice.

Research is conducted in the USSR in a number of the republics’ scientific research institutes of dermatology and venereology, the leading one of which is the Central Institute of Dermatology and Venereology of the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR; the subdepartments of dermatology and venereology of medical schools are also active in this research. Scientific problems are studied in close association with clinical practice; this has resulted in a sharp decline in the incidence of pyodermas, leishmaniases, cutaneous tuberculosis, leprosy, and scabies. G. I. Meshcherskii, P. S. Grigor’ev, A. A. Bogolepov, M. G. Mgebrov, N. A. Chernogubov, O. N. Podvysotskaia, N. S. Vedrov, M. M. Bremener, F. N. Grinchar, L. N. Mashkilleison, A. M. Krichevskii , M. P. Dem’ianovich, N. L. Rossiianskii, M. M. Zheltakov , P. V. Kozhevnikov, and V. A. Rakhmanov have made many new and original contributions to the understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of a number of skin diseases and have discovered new ways of treating and preventing them.

There are no institutes of dermatology abroad; the departments of dermatology and venereal disease at medical schools, colleges, and institutes perforrri this function. L. Popov and P. Popkhristov are the leading dermatologists in Bulgaria; K. Király, F. Fóldvari, and E. Raik, in Hungary; K. Linser, H. Kleine-Natrop, W. Gertler, M. Winkler, and H. Langhof, in the German Democratic Republic; S. Jabloñská, in Poland; S. Nicolau and S. Longhin, in Rumania; F. Kogoj, in Yugoslavia; S. Lapierre, in Belgium; G. Dowling, H. Mitchell, L. Forman, R. MacKenna, and A. Wilkinson, in Great Britain; F. Flarer and P. Cerutti, in Italy; M. Sulzberger, L. Brunsting, and D. M. Pillsbury, in the United States; A. Touron, R. Degos, A. Sivatt, J. Charpy, and J. Thivolet in France; A. Marchionini, E. Gottron, and R. Bohnstadt, in the Federal Republic of Germany; J. Jadassohn, in Switzerland; and S. Hellerström, in Sweden.

The results of clinical studies and dermatological research are published in clinical journals throughout the world, including Vestnik dermatologii i venerologii in the USSR (since 1932), Dermatologiia i venerologiia in Bulgaria (Sofia, since 1962), Börgyógyászati és venerologiaiszemle in Hungary (Budapest, since 1947), Dermatologische Wochenschrift in the German Democratic Republic (Leipzig, since 1882), Przeglad Dermatologiczny and other journals in Poland (Warsaw, since 1905), Dermato-Venerologia in Rumania (Bucharest, since 1956), Ceskoslovenská dermatologie in Czechoslovakia (Prague, since 1920), British Journal of Dermatology in Great Britain (London, since 1888), Indian Journal of Dermatology in India (Calcutta, since 1955), Minerva Dermatologica in Italy (Turin, since 1926), Archives of Dermatology (New York, since 1955) and Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Baltimore, since 1938) in the United States, Berufsdermatosen in the Federal Republic of Germany (Aulendorf, since 1953), and Archiv für klinische und experimentelle Dermatologie in West Berlin (since 1869).

The scientific societies of dermatologists of the various cities and republics serve as scientific organizations of dermatologists in the USSR; national societies of dermatologists are the comparable organizations abroad. The International Organization of Dermatologists is represented by a dermatology section in the World Health Organization (WHO) and by international dermatological congresses, the first of which was held in 1889 in Paris.


Kozhevnikov, P. V. Obshchaia dermatologiia. Leningrad, 1970. (Bibliography.)


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


The science of the structure, function, and diseases of the skin.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the branch of medicine concerned with the skin and its diseases
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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