A prelude to Poland

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Krakow, where I will be attending a neuroscience forum (NEURONUS 2013), I thought I would post about the rich history of medicine in Poland.
While I am tempted to begin with Copernicus (1473-1573), perhaps a slightly more recent review of Polish achievements in medicine is more relevant. In my field of neurology, two names immediately come to mind when Poland is mentioned – the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who spent the later stages of his career at the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw) and French neurologist of Polish descent Joseph Babinski who described the abnormal plantar reflex occurring after damage to the pyramidal tract. Others who are more intimately linked to Poland are neurophysiologist Napoleon Cybulski, who discovered adrenaline and Samuel Goldflam who helped describe the autoimmune neuromuscular disorder myasthenia gravis in the late nineteenth century. Goldflam studied under neurology legends Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal (German) and Jean-Martin Charcot (French) but spent most of his life in Warsaw. Edward Flatau is another name worth mentioning, he studied in Moscow under such great names as Sergei Korsakoff and worked with famed anatomist Heinrich Von Waldeyer-Hartz. Flatau made major contributions to our knowledge of migraines, the spinal cord and pediatric neurology.
Although I always unconsciously tend to make things all about neurology, Poland’s contribution to medicine extends far and wide across all disciplines. A few of the most noteworthy pioneers include Albert Sabin (Polish-born American) who developed the now widely used oral polio vaccine, Andrew Schally (Polish-born American) who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on peptide hormones in the brain (he received an honorary doctorate from the Jagiellonian University which is hosting the NEURONUS forum) and Tadeusz Krwawicz, an ophthalmologist who pioneered the field of cataract surgery.
So, my next post will (hopefully) be from the exciting city of Krakow! 🙂

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