Isaac Savelyevich Babchin, professor: to the 110th anniversary of his birth


Professor Isaac Savelyevich Babchin is one of the founders of home neurosurgery, an outstanding scientist, known in our country and abroad for his fundamental works in all sections of neurosurgery, a skillful clinician and talented tutor. The 110th anniversary of his birthday was celebrated on June 24, 2005.

Isaac Savelyevich was born in Vilno in 1895. In 1914 I.S. Babchin became a student of the Psychoneurological Institute of Petrograd. Later he studied at the State Institute of Medical Knowledge (SIMK). He was called to the colors at the beginning of WWI. At first I.S. Babchin was a private in the Tsar Army and then an assistant doctor in the Red Army.

Before graduation from the Institute I.S. Babchin took a great interest in surgical neuropathology and visited the Clinic of the Physical-Surgical Institute, headed by Professor A.L. Polenov. In 1924 he was appointed a doctor in charge of the Central State Traumatologic Institute, where his neurosurgical career began. Soon I.S. Babchin filled the post of a head of its neurosurgical department. In 1935 he defended his thesis A Clinical Picture and Surgery of Tumors of the Cervical Spine for a degree of Doctor of Medicine and became a Full Member of the Institute.

In 1938 I.S. Babchin started to work at the Leningrad Research Neurosurgical Institute, which was reorganized and headed by A.L. Polenov (today it the Russian Research Neurosurgical Institute named after A.L. Polenov). There he was a Deputy Director on Research Activity and headed the Clinical Department.

Working under the guidance of his teacher Prof. A.L. Polenov, I.S. Babchin proved to be an outstanding clinician. His vast and profound knowledge of both neurosurgical pathology and adjacent areas, his craftsmanship in the field of clinical examination of patients and deep intuition helped him to confirm a character and localization of neurosurgical diseases of the brain and spinal cord rather exactly or to rule them out at a prehospital level. It should be emphasized, that it was done in the absence of modern highly informative diagnostic methods. His daily outpatient consultations were attended by neurologists, ophthalmologists, ENT-specialists. On the one hand, it characterized I.S. Babchin as a popular qualified neurosurgeon and, on the other, improved skills of doctors in diagnosis of this pathology. I.S. Babchin was a brilliant neurosurgeon, his technique of surgical interventions was marvelous. He improved it constantly and shared his experience with younger generation.

A range of surgical activity of I.S. Babchin was enormous. It included numerous interventions for severe pain, performed on the root of the fifth nerve and conduction tracts of the spinal cord, as well as for intermittent torticollis, disk hernias and tumors. He was the first in the country to develop an original technique of operations on the brain in some psychic diseases. I.S. Babchin was a Neurosugeon-in-Chief during WWII. Every day he performed operations for gunshot wounds of the skull and brain, spine and spinal cord, peripheral nerves, their different complications under conditions of besieged Leningrad. After the war I.S. Babchin made interventions for sequelae of these wound and craniocerebral trauma.

I.S. Babchin was one of the founders of children’s neurosurgery in our country. He organized a children’s department in the Leningrad Research Neurosurgical Institute, developed and improved technique of surgical interventions in children. In particular, it concerned raising a muscular-periosteal graft in interventions on the posterior cranial fossa with the purpose of preventing development of liquor “pillows”. Besides, I.S. Babchin made operations on deep structures and ventricles of the brain, carried out combined treatment of malignant tumors and cystic craniopharyngiomas with administration of radioactive drugs. Stereotaxic surgery of parkinsonism and other types of hyperkinesis was introduced at the Institute under his guidance.

I.S. Babchin was a talented scholar, who wrote more than 230 scientific works, concerning almost every section of neurosurgery. Among the fundamental monographs, written by him in co-authorship with other scientists, one can mention Foundations of Practical Neurosurgery, Cerebral Tumors in Children and Teenagers, Metastatic Cancer, A Clinical Picture and Diagnosis of Tumors of the Spine and Spinal Cord, Gunshot Wounds of the Skull and Brain, published in the IV-Vth volumes of The Experience of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. I.S. Babchin is an author of various inventions. Even today his articles are manuals for home and foreign practical neurosurgeons, neurologists and traumatologists.

I.S. Babchin made a valuable contribution to training neurosurgeons and specialists in adjacent fields. He began to deliver extremely interesting lectures on neurosurgery at the State Institute of Advanced Training in 1927 and became a senior lecturer and then a professor of the Faculty of Neurosurgery after its opening in 1935. I.S. Babchim was its head in 1947-1969. He was the first in the country to organize special courses of advanced training in neurooncology and neurotraumatology for neuropathologists, traumatologists and surgeons. It was done not only within the precincts of the Faculty, but also in different regions of our country. The so-called guest courses were extremely popular.

I.S. Babchin was a founder, a chairman and then an Honorary Member of the Leningrad Society of Neurosurgeons, which was the first in the country. Today it is known as the Association of Neurosurgeons named after him. Besides, he was a member of the Board of the All-Union Neurosurgical Society, the Pirogov Society of Traumatologists and Orthopedists, Societies of Neurologists and Neurosurgeons of Estonia and Hungary, a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Voprosy Neirokhirurgii.

Long-term fruitful surgical, research, pedagogical and organizational activity of I.S. Babchin was an extremely valuable contribution to development of native neurosurgery. His scientific and pedagogical heritage will serve a source of ideas for many years. Everlasting interest in it is the best monument to the unforgettable teacher from his grateful disciples.