Exhibits reflecting the development of pharmacology in Ukraine.

Frankly, I'm not much of a museum enthusiast, but there is one museum which is special and, as far as I am concerned, is of a great general interest to anyone. It is the Museum of Medicine of Ukraine. It traces the development of medicine in Ukraine since the time of Kyivan Rus (10th-13th centuries) up to the present day.

Back in 1982, when the city of Kyiv celebrated its 1,500 anniversary the communist party and "personally Leonid Brezhnev, its secretary general" were lauded to the skies and thanked for "the happy life now" and even happier life in the future. A group of enthusiastic medics decided to put the pomp of celebrations to a better use: they managed to convince the city authorities a museum of the history of medicine was needed and should be opened in Kyiv. And surprisingly enough, it was. The first visitors were pleasantly surprised to see a museum very much different from anything they were accustomed to see in museums of the Soviet times. Even the building in which the museum was housed, was an unusual choice: it was the former anatomy theatre of the Kyiv St Volodymyr University, situated in an old part of town (it is an architectural landmark, now under state protection, designed in the 19th century by the prominent architect Oleksandr Beretti). Several generations of medical scientists and researchers worked in the 19th and early 20th centuries in this theatre, among them some remarkable figures in the history of Ukrainian medicine.
Another unusual feature was a departure from the traditional way prevalent in the Soviet times of displaying museum exhibits. A vast historical section showed the early stages in the development of medicine in Ukraine, that is not only "the achievements of the Soviet period" were represented. Historical interiors of some halls and dioramas enhanced visitors' impression. Thanks to sculptured figures and lifelike details, representations of a nineteenth-century operating room with an operation in progress and of a sixteenth-century drugstore run by an old Jew from Halychyna, one had a feeling one was watching an actual happening unfolding before one's eyes.
A diorama showing one of the battles fought in Ukraine in the
war of independence of the 17th century.
The Museum of Medicine soon gained the prestige of a place authentically recreating scenes from the past and providing a good entertainment. The early visitors also could not help wondering where all those exhibits rare books, genuinely old instruments, test tubes, vials and bottles, not replicas! had come from. The Museum has been attracting not large but a steady number of visitors ever since. The Museum begins its story about the development of medicine in Ukraine from the times of Kyivan Rus. The very early stages in medical aid, allopathic medicine, folk medicine, first hospitals, ways of treatment used all of these things are presented vividly and viewably. There is a section devoted to Fevroniya, a folk healer of great repute in the olden times; there is a section that shows an old bathhouse and treatment folk healers offered in it: medicinal properties of dry vapour, herb teas and tinctures, salves and plasters were widely used to treat the sick and wounded. Folk healers set bones, dealt with herniae, let blood, extracted bad teeth, cured colds. The visitor finds himself in a Ukrainian bathhouse among several bathers and those seeking medical treatment, transported from the distant past wax figures are executed in a very lifelike manner. A diorama shows a battle, one of the many fought in Ukraine in the war of independence of the 17th century. The regiments led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, are followed into battle by barbers who also doubled for physicians: they operate on the wounded, removing splinters and slugs; stop the blood, bandage the wounds. This exhibit shows the very fist steps of medical aid given to soldiers right in the thick of battle.


Outstanding Ukrainian epidemiologist D. Zabolotny.


11th century hospital in the Kyiv Pechersk Monastery.


Doctor in a Ukrainian peasant house at the bed of a
sick child (19th century).

And here is an old apothecary in his small, provincial pharmacy: wooden, glass, china vials and vessels for medical preparations, decoctions and extractions; on small table lies a registry of the year 1836; next to it balances, blanks for prescriptions. One can also see all kinds of apparatus which the druggist used to prepare pills, capsules and liquid medicines. A figure of the apothecary himself wearing the clothes of the early nineteenth century completes the picture. Incidentally, the furniture and apparatus are genuine 18th and 19th century pieces. In one of the rooms of the Museum one can see a manual on obstetrics written by Nestor Ambodyk-Maksymovych, a graduate of the famed Kyiv Mohyla Academy, who was the founder of obstetrics as a branch of medical science in Ukraine. The manual was the first of its kind ever published in Eastern Europe. One of the Museum halls shows the operating room of the Medical Department of the Kyiv St Volodymyr University the way it looked in the 1870s. Volodymyr Karavayev, a surgeon-ophthalmologist, is seen performing an operation. Karavayev was a prominent medical figure in Kyiv of the second half of the nineteenth century, the first Dean of the then newly opened Medical Department, founder of the surgery that functioned within the framework of the Department. Karavayev's disciple, Mykola Pyrohov, is assisting him in the operation. Pyrohov was another major figure of the late nineteenth century. He is considered to be the founder of Ukrainian and Russian military-field surgery; also he was a prominent educationist and anatomist. In the late nineteenth century operations were performed with instruments that had wooden or bone handles and were not sterilised, surgeons did not wear doctors' coats. But the visitor to this hall of the Museum will see a mask next to the operating table for administering anaesthetic ether. It was a great innovation at the time, pioneered by Pyrohov and Karavayev. In the study and consulting room of Professor Vasyl Obraztsov, one of the founders of the Kyiv school of therapeutic treatment, we see him performing palpation (examination by touch) on his patient. Obraztsov developed a new technique of deep abdominal touch for diagnosing an illness. Later this method received a worldwide recognition. On the walls of the room one can see portraits of Professor Fridrikh Mering, another luminary of the time, and of Obraztsov's close friend, prominent Ukrainian writer Mykhaylo Kotsyubynsky.

Obraztsov and his disciple, Mykola Strazhesku, later Academician of medicine, pioneered in describing clinical symptoms of myocardial infarction and their work paved the way to successful treatment of this dangerous condition. The Museum is not only a concentration of information about history of medicine in Ukraine, it is also a sort of memorial to outstanding physicians and pivotal figures in the development of medical science. In the study of Danylo Zabolotny, one of the first presidents of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, epidemiologist and microbiologist, we see him looking into a microscope. He was not an armchair scientist he might seem he took an active part in fighting epidemics in many parts of Europe and Asia. He studied the way the plague, "black death," as it was usually referred to, is spread, and proved that rodents were the main carriers of the disease. He also researched the ways of immunization against cholera and in 1893 made an experiment on himself: he had himself immunized against cholera and then drank liquid containing living cholera culture. And by not falling ill he proved that immunization worked. You can wander through the Museum for hours, learning, discovering and just enjoying yourself. The Museum presents scientific and historical information in a very informative and at the same time entertaining manner. Taking a walk along Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street in Kyiv, do drop into the Museum of Medicine.

By Oles Ilchenko