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18 Jun, 2007 03:45

The oldest mummy in modern history

Throughout history, famous leaders have had their bodies preserved for posterity. One of the oldest and best-preserved mummies in the world can now be found in Western Ukraine. It is the body of Nikolay Pirogov, one of the greatest surgeons of all time.

In the world of medicine, Nikolay Pirogov is revered as much as Da Vinci in art or Newton in science. His findings in the 19th century paved the way for modern surgery. Moscow-born, Nikolay Pirogov spent the last 20 years of his life on his estate in Ukraine. Now it’s a popular tourist attraction.

This museum is 60 years old and as in every old-fashioned museum, one has to wear slippers, which never match, and walk slowly and talk quietly.

In dimly-lit rooms, paintings and sketches take you through his medical endeavors. Before Pirogov, surgery and anatomy were two separate things. Many operations ended in death because doctors did not know the structure of the human body.

His atlas was the first grand illustration of individual organs in fine detail. Doctors, who are the most frequent visitors here, say that his findings are still used to this day.

“In our practical work we always refer to Pirogov. He was a kind person and an amazing teacher with his students. Many generations grew up on his studies,” said Olyona Savytska, a doctor from Vinnitsa, Ukraine.

Pirogov is also credited for the first use of anesthetics, ether and plaster casts. He was an army surgeon in four different wars. His innovation of using nurses’ help during the Crimean war is sometimes referred to as the only good result of the fighting.

Museum curators say that people trusted him infinitely.

“Once soldiers took their wounded friend to Pirogov. At the hospital, they were stopped by a duty surgeon. He shouted ”what are you doing? He has no head!“. But the soldiers said ”do not worry, we've got his head and Pirogov is here. Everything will be ok!" Klavdia Antoschuk, the Pirogov Museum Curator from Vinnitsa, told this story.

Nikolay Pirogov is now resting in a chapel. His wife wished to preserve his body for future generations. It is prohibited to film him. The 125-year-old mummy is the oldest in modern history and one of the best preserved in the world.