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Moments in Surgical History
June 1, 2006

The Monarch and the Master: Peter the Great and Frederik Ruysch

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Centers for Surgical Anatomy and Technique, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga (Drs Mirilas, P. N. Skandalakis, and J. E. Skandalakis); University of Crete Medical School, Heraklion, Crete, Greece (Dr Lainas); and Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass (Dr Panutsopulos).

Arch Surg. 2006;141(6):602-606. doi:10.1001/archsurg.141.6.602

  The extraordinary European journey of Tsar Peter the Great and his passage to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, allowed him to meet a great figure of medical history who offered insight into the mysteries surrounding the structure of the human body. The famous Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch, preeminent in dissection and anatomical preservation, impressed the emperor and inspired his love for anatomy and surgery. Peter the Great was fascinated by the study of the structure of the human body and spent many hours in the anatomical cabinet of Ruysch. This impressive collection of cadavers and anatomical specimens, described as “a perfect necropolis,” was both a laboratory for teaching anatomy and a bizarre and unique form of art. The profound and enduring impression that the West made on the emperor also led him to modernize the medical services in his homeland, Russia.

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