Age of the epidemic – Polish scholars at the St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine
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"- Here," a polite guide explains, "we grow plague, here we have diphtheria again, and here cholera. Maybe we can go to the plague? ...

- And yes! Plague in hermetically sealed jars, like in a prison, does not have to be dangerous. Staying among the "enemies of humanity" would be pleasant, if not for the shortness of breath from the tropical heat that forces us to grab the door handle. [...]

The first floor (the building is high, one-story) includes: Nencki's laboratory, his assistant's room, Nencki's office, elementary analysis room, room with weights, room for microscopy, general laboratory, room for hydrogen sulfide.

Nencki does not live in the institute; on the contrary, the assistants and staff have a separate pavilion, where there are dining and play rooms. The Institute creates, as it were, a separate world, cut off from the rest of the world, with which it is connected only by post and telephone".

In 1897, a visit to the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine (IME), a modern scientific and research institution, this is how the correspondent of the "Kurier Warszawski" reported. The role of the "kind guide" was played by Szymon Dzierzgowski (1866–1928), one of the assistants of the co-founder of modern physiological chemistry (biochemistry), chemist and physiologist, prof. Marcel Nencki (1847–1901).

To this day, part of the IME is located in this building on the Akademika Pawłowa 12 street (formerly Łopuchinska). Nencki, whose arrival to Russia was sought by the curator of this institution, Grand Duke Aleksander Piotrowicz Oldenburski, was offered the management of a specially created Chemical Plant. In 1891, the Polish scholar came to the Russian capital from Switzerland, where from 1872 he was associated with the Berne University. The biochemical school founded under his supervision was often called the "Nencki school". He also brought some of his Berne collaborators to the Neva, including Nadieżda O. Ziber-Szumowa, S. Dzierzgowski and Martin Hahn.

Nencki continued there, among others work on gastric juice chemistry, working closely with an excellent physiologist and later discoverer of conditioned reflexes by prof. Ivan P. Pavlov. Together with the team, he also conducted intensive research on the etiology of infectious diseases, including cholera, diphtheria and animal plague. Particular attention was paid to the causes of cholera, the mechanism of which he tried to explain to German scholar Robert Koch. To better observe the development of the disease, he joined the search for methods to combat its epidemic in Baku and Astrakhan (1892 and 1893). In 1895, he was interested in the rinderpest epidemic spreading among horned cattle in the Typtian province and Czycie. He then began intensive laboratory tests, striving to produce an effective serum against this dangerous disease. In 1899, a new wave of epidemics occurred in Georgia, but it was quickly controlled by the serum he created.

Enjoying the respect of Russian scholars, Nencki had the honorary membership of the St. Petersburg Pharmaceutical Society and the Association of Russian Doctors. In 1901 he became a member of the Circle of Polish Doctors, then founded under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Charity Society at the church of St. Catherine. In the same year he died in St. Petersburg, but he was buried in Warsaw. In 1903, the bronze bust of Antoni Olesiński. was unveiled at the IME Chemical Department.

Chemist and hygienist S. Dzierzgowski, in the future also a political thinker and activist ... of the monarchist movement (author of the book Democracy and Monarchy published in Warsaw in 1925), after returning to reborn Poland in 1918, he joined the University of Warsaw. Before that, however, under his mentor's guidance, he was first involved in the chemistry of aromatic compounds in St. Petersburg, and then experimental research on immunizing systems against germs that caused typhus, plague, cholera and diphtheria. He participated in combating the plague epidemic in the Astrakhan State (1899–1900) and cholera in the eastern and southern regions of Russia. The results of inquiries and observations related to these issues were published in 1895–1900 in over 60 publications, including in the Contribution to housing disinfection announced in Warsaw in 1899. In 1901, after the death of Nencki, he became the head of the IME Hygiene Department, and in 1913 the director of the entire IME. During World War I, as a member of the war committee, he organized gas defense and the fight against epidemics on the front and among civilians in Petrograd.



The building of the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg at Łopuchinska street (currently Akademika Pawłowa 12 street) in the year of its inauguration.



Contemporary view of the building of the Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg.



Professor Marceli Nencki, chemist and physiologist, longtime head of the chemistry plant at the St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine.




Conduct with prof. M. Nencki corpse to the St. Petersburg Railway Station in October 1901.




Unveiled in 1903 in the St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine, a bronze bust of prof. M. Nencki byAntoni Olesiński.

More about Nencki, Dzierzgowski and other Polish scientists associated with Russia in the Polish online encyclopedia St. Petersburg (www.polskipetersburg.pl).

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