Book - Russian Embryology (1750 - 1850) 1
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Blyakher L. History of embryology in Russia from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century (istoryia embriologii v Rossii s serediny XVIII do serediny XIX veka) (1955) Academy of Sciences USSR. Institute of the History of Science and Technology. Translation Smithsonian Institution (1982).
Publishing House of the Academy of Science USSR
Translated from Russian
Translated and Edited by:
Dr. Hosni Ibrahim Youssef # Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Cairo University
Dr. Boulos Abdel Malek
Head of Veterinary Research Division
Arab Republic of Egypt
The Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C, by The Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations 1982
The Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C by The Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations (1982)
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Chapter 1 The Beginning of Embryological Investigations in Russia in Lomonosov's Epoch
The end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century are considered a turning point in the history of Russian culture, connected with the reorganizing activity of Peter I . To overcome economic backwardness and to consolidate the powerful State, specialists in the fields of industry, military affairs, and medicine were necessary. But the existing seventeenth-century Russian educational institutions â€” Slavic, Greek, and Latin academies in Kiev, Mogilyanskaya, and Moscow â€” offered religious-scholastic education which could not insure the preparation of such specialists. In the beginning, different specialists were invited from abroad; however, the need to prepare their own was clear. At the beginning of the eighteenth century in Moscow, and later in Petersburg, the schools of mathematical and navigational sciences (1701), preparatory (1703), surgery (1706), engineering (1712), and others were therefore established.
Medical education required materials, first of all for the study of anatomy, the basis of medical science. Besides the preparation of these anatomical demonstrations for training future physicians, natural-historical demonstrations were collected to illustrate the normal and deformed development of the human and animal embryo. The formation of the embryological and teratological collection was carried out by nominal decrees.
On February 13,1718 Peter I gave the following decree:
It is known that monstrosities are born of freak humans, animals and birds, which are collected in all conditions for their interest. A decree had been established many years previous that those who gave birth or contributed a freak received a payment for the above mentioned. Two which were brought were described as babies, each with two heads that were attached to their bodies . It is possible that many were born in this condition. The ignorant believed that these monsters were born from the devil's influence, that it was impossible for the single creator of all creatures, God, to be responsible. Actually, the deformity was caused by damage to the interior, by fear or maternal conditions at the time of pregnancy, examples of which were the frightened mother, the mother who was hurt or in pain, etc.
From the contents of this decree, it is clear that a similar decree had preceded some years earlier, but its text was never found. This revised decree specified payment for every human, animal and avian monster brought to the Commandant in every town. Payment for dead monstrosities included: for the human, ten roubles; for animal, five roubles; and for avian, three roubles. For living monsters, payment for the human was 100 roubles; for animal, 15 roubles; and for the avian monster, 7 roubles. But if it was highly unusual higher payment was given, and less if there was little change from the ordinary. In addition, if birth was intentional and because of shame over the monster they did not want to bring it, the Commandant innocuously asked them â€” whose? By relinquishing the monstrosity, the person received his money and was set free. When the monsters died, they were put in spirits. Or if preservatives were unavailable, then they were placed in strong ordinary wine and closed tightly, in order not to deteriorate. Payment for this wine was made to the pharmacy. 1
Earlier, January 28,1704, Peter had declared the following nominal decree for Moscow and for the Moscow district of boyar Musiny-Pushkin:
1. POLNOE SOBRANIE ZAKONOV ROSSIISKOI IMPERII S 1649 (The Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire from 1649) (1830), v. V, pp. 541 - 542.
The Great Sovereign decrees .... in all parishes of His Great Majesty, under penalty of death, that midwives delivering babies who are born with any deformed characteristics or appearance, or immature in form or strange, must not kill and must not hide them. They must declare them to the priests of the monastic order of these parishes , and the priests must declare them to boyar Ivan Alekseevich Musiny-Pushkin and his assistants. 2
The prohibition against killing monsters and the request for information about them indicated that before 1704 there had been no systematic collection of teratological and embryological material. Related to the latter was the nominal decree of May 30,1705, which stated: "To all ranks of people whose pregnant wives deliver embryos of babies from five to nine months and whose wives die: the hour of death of these wives must be reported in person to the monastic order, to be reported to boyar Ivan Alekseevich Musiny-Pushkin and his assistants .3
The collected materials at first were added to the collections of Peter I, brought by him from the journey of the "Great Embassy" to Western Europe in 1697 - 1698. The anatomical and embryological preparations from this collection were kept in the main pharmacy of Moscow, where the preparations from the hospital dissecting room, opened in 1703, were transmitted. In 1714 these collections were transported to the building of the Summer Palace in Petersburg, to the so-called "Imperial Cabinet," and from there, in 1718, to a special building, "Kunstkamera," in the house of A. Kikin.
The embryological collections were at first exhibited in the form of pictorial compositions (2) , like the famous collection of the Dutch anatomist Ruysch, which Peter purchased from him during the second journey to Holland in 1717. Besides this, according to one foreign eye-witness, systematic embryo logical collections were present in the Kunstkamera: "bottles with specimens of human fetal development, from the earliest form of the embryo to the complete mature fetus. There are also different monsters both human and animal."^
2. Ibid ., v. IV, p. 243.
3. Ibid., p. 308.
The reading public in Russia at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries was informed about the richness of the collections of the Kunstkamera, in particular about the presence there of the embryological preparations, by "Pismovnik," which was a widely distributed popular work of Professor N. G. Kurganov. 5 The author of the first work on the history of medicine in Russia, Professor V. M. Richter, characterized these collections by writing: 6
that among these preparations primary attention is given and astonishment is produced by the representation of the birth of man, the constant formation and development of the fetus from the earliest beginning to complete maturation. This collection is composed solely of 110 embryos (embryos and fetuses) representing the constant growth of the infant from the size of a grain to complete formation of the infant. Here also the embryo which has just come from the fallopian tube is present . . . The last is so delicate and transparent, that one can easily see in the first months the position and also the formed organs. The rich collection of monsters must be added to this.
- Petersburg, 1720. "A Polish Eye-witness' Notes," OLD RUSSIA, X, June 1879, pp. 263 - 290, quotation p. 271. Ntikolai Gavrilovich) Kurganov, PISMOVNIK, containing science of Russian language with many adherences of different educational and useful amusing words. 1802. (The first edition appeared in 1777.) (7) V. M. Richter, HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN RUSSIA, I (1814) , pp. 30, 31.
Another foreign eye-witness who visited the Kunstkamera in 1721 wrote that, "Among many other subjects ... I especially noticed . . . the gradual development of the human embryo from the first conception. In bottles filled with spirits, you can see a uterus and in its opening a baby with a completely formed head and face, many forms of babies removed from the uterus, with skin or without skin, with one head but with two faces, other monsters with two heads, four hands, four legs, many fingers and, in addition, a gradual alteration of frogs and their generation from tadpoles...." 7 The teratological and embryological materials were given to the Kunstkamera (3) either by physicians or by people from different sections of Russian society responding to the famous decree of 1718 (4) . After the establishment of Petersburg Academy of Science in 1725, the Kunstkamera was transmitted to its authority, and in 1728 a special building opened for visitors on Vasilevsky island.
The first attempts to study the teratological collections of the Kunstkamera were made by academician Dyuvernua (5) , who, as seen from the following document, had been instructed to investigate the newly received material: "On September 16, 1728 the wife of a Saint Petersburg garrison soldier gave birth to two sons Ivan and Voka, and Ivan had no hands. By the decree of the Academy of Science it was determined that the above mentioned infant be examined by professor of Anatomy Dyuvernua along with other academy members. "8 Dyuvernua made a report on his results: "In the conference Professor Dyuvernua showed the dead monsters sent from the Admiral board and reported his works on this observation." 9
Information about monsters received from distant outskirts sometimes showed the extremely serious view of monstrosities by simple Russian people. For example, one letter gave a detailed description of a deformed kid. The copy of this letter was received from the office of the main board of Siberian and Kazan factories, and was sent from Samara to the Empress Anna Ivanovna.
- F. V. Berkhgol'tsa, DIARY (1721 - 1725) . First part, translated from the German by I. F. Ammona. New edition. (Moscow, 1902), quotation on pp. 107 - 108. "Materialy dlya istorii Imper. Akademii nauk" (Materials for the history of the Imperial Academy of science) v. 1, No. 617. October 1728, p. 404, 1885.
Ibid., No. 687, March 18,1729, p. 474.
On December 10, of this year in the house of the foreman Fedor Elkin,a goat gave birth to a monster kid.... It was certified by the office of the main factory board and also of the pharmacist Krestyan Menders as a monster. It had two heads, white wool, a goatlike body, two separate faces, four eyes , two under the ears , two in the middle of the face, two mouths, four nostrils, two strange ears,.... the lower lip was divided on the right side, the left side of the mouth was like that of the natural goat, the lips were curved, and the above mentioned were connected at the sides â€” left to right and right to left; thus they stood separately and were not connected together. The first side of the face looked to the right, the second to the left; in each mouth the tongue was similar to that of the natural animals . Its nourishment from the mother was not seen but when the pharmacist gave milk in one mouth from a feeding-bottle, it took more in the right mouth than in the left one. But both mouths reacted when one mouth was given food that passed to only one belly. Both mouths could cry, and therefore it seemed as if it had two throats; when one kept silent, the other cried, but if they were free, they cried together... A drawing is given of this kid. In the original the following is written: Major Leontei Ugrimov. Nikifor Kleopin. Timofei Burtsov.
The drawing of the monster-kid is followed by the inscription: "This figure in toto resembles the kid which was born from a goat with white wool, in Ekaterin time, on December 10, 1738. Miron Avramov drew and shaded it. "10
The reorganizing activity of Peter I was expressed, in particular, by sending young people abroad to receive general and special education. The first Russian doctor of philosophy and medicine was P. V. Posnikov, who was sent on a mission to Italy in 169Z and received the scientific degree from the University of Padua. Beginning in 1696, going abroad for educational purposes became more frequent. Contact with the Dutch working in Moscow and his visits to Holland in 1697 - 1698 prompted Peter to use the industrial and educational institutions of that country for training the Russian people who were sent abroad.
10. Ibid ., v. IV, No. 1, pp. 1 - 2. 24
The journey of Moscow-born Arnold van der Hulst to Holland for medical education is interesting for the present purposes (6) . In 1717 in Leyden, he defended a dissertation on the subject "Blood circulation in the fetus"!* (Figure 1). The dissertation opens with an interesting two pages dedicated to Russian Czar Peter Alekseevich. Among other praises the author spoke of Peter as the "tireless prospector and liberal distributer of all arts and sciences, whose cause truly benefits mankind."
The process of conception was regarded by Hulst, from the point of view predominating at that time, as preformationist. He assigned importance to seminal animalcules (which spermatozoids were called); he considered then the true rudiment of the fetus and in the presence of the necessary heat as responsible for its origin (p. 3). Hulst was convinced of the importance of seminal animalcules by his observation of chick embryos, which after some hours of incubation have, according to him, the same structure as that of cock embryos. Both possess swollen heads and curved small bodies. Malpighi had described this as a result of the changes by which they were transformed into chickens. "Similarly," Hulst wrote, "nature acts during the formation of the human body from the semen of men." And he referred to the observations of Ryusch, who during the dissection of a woman's corpse a short time after conception, saw, for the first time, a human embryo, completely similar in form with those worms which Leeuwenhoek had discovered in male semen. "We are not afraid to conclude," Hulst wrote, "that animalcules, which were observed by
11. Arnold van der Hulst, DISPUTATIO MEDICA INAUGURALIS DE CIRCULATIONE SANGUINIS IN FOETU, June 1717, Ludini Batav, 26 pp.
Leeuwenhoek in the semen of men, also are considered the base for the formation of the human fetus" (p. 4).
Turning to the role of woman in reproduction, Hulst, in accordance with current opinions, accepted that the mother "gives the semen a comfortable shelter, warms it and defends it against unsuitable effects" (p. 4). The ovaries were considered the organ of reproduction in women; vesicles formed on their surface. These vesicles (ova) were fertilized by the semen which penetrated into their fluid contents, and they were carried through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hulst noticed that the changes which the semen caused in the ovum and in the woman's body after conception remained unclear. In any case he considered it established that the internal surface of the uterus, having received the fertilized ovum, became soft because of the outflow of blood from the open ends of the vessels. The ovum sank into this bloodenriched superficial layer, held firmly to it by an outgrowth of rootlets. Near the embryo, over the membrane which covered it (chorion), a plexus of arterial and venous vessels formed, giving origin to the placenta.
Hulst' s discussions of the embryonic structure were more or less in accordance with the preformists' presentations, although not in the current primitive form of absolute preformation. Hulst confirmed that:
the body of the extremely delicate embryo , united with the placenta by means of the so-called umbilical cord, represents not an accidental union of parts, but a production of divine art according to high mathematical law. It is composed of two kinds of parts â€” compact and fluid. The compact parts contain the delicate and weak vessels, which are so small that they are difficult to see even with the aided eye. A transparent fluid flows in them, its movement stimulated by the heat of the mother .... From this originally transparent fluid arises pinkish moisture, which eventually becomes red and acquires the characteristics of true blood which is similar in the yolk. In that moment, when this purple-colored fluid appears , the complicated machine arises . This machine is called the heart, with the auricles, two veins, and two arteries belonging to it. (p. 9)
Figure 1. The title page of the dissertation or Arnold van der Hulst.
The subsequent life of the fetus depends on the start of blood circulation.
Later, Hulst discussed at length the anatomy of the heart and vessels, especially the structure and activity of the blood system of the human fetus. He returned to the participation of blood movement in the system's formation in one of the concluding paragraphs of his dissertation. "Thus," Hulst wrote, when contemplating the origin of our life it is not difficult to understand that at the time of conception, when the semen of the father is shared with the mother, mechanical structures pre-exist. As a result of the movement of the fluid, the pumping heart later on becomes visible. Due to its beating and distribution of moisture, which provides nutrition, the vessels expand and grow. The fetus increases by insensible increments , and all that was fluid and hardly visible shortly before becomes compact and is easily observed, (p. 25)
From these extracts, it is clear that Hulst on the one hand voted for the preformation of the fetus in a spermatozoid, while on the other hand he considered that the formation of the fetus is accomplished by the new formation of these important parts, including the heart, blood vessels, and blood. Thus, the theoretical opinions of the young Moscow doctor of medicine did not move beyond the traditional opinions of the beginning of the eighteenth century, although he did avoid the incorrect extreme of preformation.
The journeys abroad of Russian young people in the eighteenth century were either for preparation of specialists and practical workers, or for replenishment of national science personnel for two principal scientific centers â€” the Academy of Science in Petersburg and Moscow University. In its first ten years, Moscow University followed Lomonosov's plan and filled all its vacancies with Russian professors.-^
12. n. A. Penchko, OSNAVANIE MOSKOVSKOGO UNIVERSITETA (The foundation of Moscow University), Moscow, 1953, 190 pp.
In the Academy of Science, the struggle against the dominant foreign specialists was more difficult and lasted for a long time. Among the foreign academicians and those who had come to Russia only out of mercenary inducements and opportunism, a group of authentic scientists was quickly distinguished. They gave their adopted land all their strength and abilities. In this group, besides Eiler, Pallas, Gmelin and others, we must include Kaspar Friedrich Wolff, who arrived in Russia in the spring of 1767.
The arrival of Wolff in Petersburg coincided with the return of the academic museum, the Kunstkamera, to its previous building, which was re-established after its 1747 fire. The zoological collections of the Kunstkamera were entrusted to Pallas, the botanical to Gmelin, and the anatomical (and embryological) to Wolff. 13 When the first two academicians left for an expedition to study Russia's natural resources, the guidance of all natural history collections of the Kunstkamera was placed under Wolff. In addition he was delegated to receive the collections of the expeditions and to assure the safety of those scientific materials. 14 This vast organizational work did not prevent Wolff from starting his serious study of the continuously growing anatomical and embryological collections of the Kunstkamera. While in Russia he devoted himself to this ongoing activity.
The years before Wolff's arrival in Petersburg, the Academy of Science suffered a heavy loss. Mikhail Vasilevich Lomonosov died at the prime of his creative power. Strong traditions of strict investigation and materialism are connected in Russian sciences with the name and genius of Lomonosov. "One experiment," Lomonosov wrote, "I prefer to six hundred opinions, born only by imagination." 1 ^ Along with the confirmation of the importance of empirical investigations for science and its practical ' applications, Lomonosov tirelessly showed the necessity of materialistic explanations for all phenomena of nature. He rejected the interference of the supernatural and underlined the changeability of all existing things. And at least it must not be attributed to miracles," he wrote at the beginning of 1760. In his work, "The first fundamentals of metallurgy or mining," Lomonosov spoke in 1763 about the necessity of historical study of natural bodies, and he caustically made fun of the supporters of metaphysical opinions about the unchangeability of any body of nature.
13. T. V. Stanyukovich, KUNSTKAMERA PETERBURGSKOI AKADEMII NAUK (Kunstkamera of Petersburg Academy of Science) (Moscow: Akademii nauk , 1953), p. 142.
14. Ibid ., pp. 149, 154.
15. Mikhail Vasil'evich Lomonosov, IZBRANNYE FILOSOFSKIE SOCHINENIYA (Selected philosophical works) , edited and preface by G. Vasetsky (Moscow, 1940), p. 109. In the Latin original Lomonosov wrote "sexcenti," which means not only "six hundred" but "a great number." Thus, of course, this expression must be translated.
It must be little understood that the visible corporeal or terrestrial substances of the world are not in this condition from the beginning of their creation. .. .but that great changes took place in them .... Thus many think wrongfully, that.... from the beginning the creator built not only mountains, valleys and water, but also the different kinds of minerals, and therefore, it is not necessary to investigate the causes, for their internal nature and different places of location. These discussions are extremely harmful to the advancement of all sciences ,.. .although it is easier to be a clever man and philosopher by learning by heart three words: "God thus built,' and giving them as the answer for creation.
Simultaneously, Lomonosov sought the material structure of all natural bodies. In "The course of true physical chemistry," (1752 - 1754) he wrote the following:
All bodies are divided into organic (organized) and non-organic. The organic parts of bodies appear interconnected so that all mutually united parts have one casual origin.... We consider organic... the natural bodies, namely animal and plant kingdoms in which fibers, ducts, vessels, juices are known and must be regarded as one whole. In addition, although the organs of the animals and plants are delicate, they are composed of smaller particles. These are from the non-organic, i.e. from mixed bodies, because during chemical operations their organized structure is destroyed and then produce mixed bodies. In this way, all that is produced from the animal and plant bodies by nature or art constitutes mixed bodies, or chemical materials.
16. Ibid . , p. 270.
These brief extracts show the way Russian sciences advanced and how scientific work developed from the middle of the eighteenth century.
K. F. Wolff was considered one of the brilliant representatives of Russian science during Lomonosov's epoch. Although tributes to Lomonosov's traditions in the Petersburg Academy of Science were counteracted by some foreigners, Lomonosov's ideas had become rooted deeply in Russian public opinion of that time. The consequence of this negative feeling was the cautious selection of foreign scientists. Preference was given to those who were determined to explore new ideas in Russia permanently. K.F. Wolff unquestionably satisfied these conditions.
Wolff's dissertation, "Theoria generationis, " and the popular statements of its underlying principles in a German book of the same name, came prior to his move to Russia in 1767. At the Petersburg Academy of Science, Wolff continued to work out embryological problems. From 1766 to 1768, he published in Russia his vast memoirs "About the formation of the intestine, which had almost the same significance as his above-mentioned works.
After this, Wolff turned to the study of monsters, using the teratological collection of the Kunstkamera and carrying out extremely thorough investigation of the materials collected there. He published only three works on this subject. The greater part of his description, together with the theoretical considerations concerning human and animal monsters remained unpublished. Only recently, a part of these manuscripts was published, in extracts, by B. E. Raikov. 18
17. Ibid ., p. 214.
18. B. E. Raikov, OCHERKI PO ISTCRII EVOLYUTSIONNOI
I DEI V ROSS 1 1 DO DARVINA (Essays on the history of evolutionary ideas in Russia before Darwin) (Moscow: Akademii nauk, 1947), pp. 46 - 94.
The significance of the works of Wolff, who in fairness is considered the founder of embryology as a science, can scarcely be exaggerated. His advanced ideas about embryonic development found favorable ground in the Petersburg Academy of Science and received a practical base in the embryological and teratological collections of the Kunstkamera.
One of Wolff's most important services, as is known, is the substantiation and the empirical proof of the epigenesis principle. The establishment of the epigenetic character of individual development made the existence of embryology as a science possible, because the preformation theory predominat' ing before disclaimed any qualitative change in the organism from the ovum to the fully formed condition. The principle of epigenesis as a study of the qualitative changes during the individual life of the organism consequently set up the basis of evolutionary, historical views of organic nature.
In his lectures on general zoology, 19 K. F. Rule was almost the first to connect the epigenesis principle with an historical viewpoint. The following extracts are from these lectures. "In nature, in the world of phenomena," Rule wrote, "there is nothing that existed from the beginning; all existing things are formed from non-existing things; all the following are formed from repetitions of the foregoing with the addition of the new; all is formed by constant slow development (Epigenesis)" (p. 11). And later on: "In order to understand how the animal is organized now, one must first understand how it has been up to the present moment; its formation in space becomes understood by appreciating its origin in time. Zognosis is based on Zoogenesis" (p. 12). "...all Zoogenesis is only an expression of the common fact of genetic development: epigenesis directly opposes the present view of investment of the embryo (Emboitement des germes) or preexistence of the embryo (Preexistance des germes), which was held by (Georges Cuvier) himself" (pp. 12 - 13). In the following pages Rule gives brilliant criticism of the idea of preformation and shows how the principle of epigenesis, the "law of intercourse of the animal with the world," (p. 16) is realized in the historical development of organisms.
19. K(arl) F(rantsovich) Rule (Charles Rouillier) , "Chteniya ekstra-ordinarnogo professora Rule, 1850. Obshchaya zoologiya" (Lectures of Extraordinary Professor Rule, 1850, General Zoology) (Litografir. izdanie) , pp. 11 f f . The author has to thank S. R. Mikulinsky for indication of this source.
Later on, Wolff's observations that the embryo in the early stages is composed from layers, later called embryonic layers, gained great importance. The study of the embryonic layers, as the common form of development of all multicellular animals, in the second half of the nineteenth century became the base of comparative embryology. Creation and detailed elaboration of this progressive direction in the study of ontogenesis constitute the glory of Russian science.
In order to evaluate to the necessary extent the greatness of Wolff's scientific exploits, especially his development of the theory of epigenesis, it is necessary to give a brief essay of the history of the struggle between supporters of preformation (preexistence) and epigenesis (new formation), which represented a struggle of two outlooks, two metaphysical and historical opinions of the world of living creatures.
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