Bekhterev Vladimir Mihaylovich
On January 20, 1857 (in the old style) in village Sarali of Elabuga district, Vyatka province, in the family of a civil servant Vladimir Bekhterev was born – he was one of the first and most prominent psychologists in Russia, neurologist, psychologist and psychiatrist, a man who has once again proved the truth of M.V. Lomonosov words that “Russian land may give birth to own Platos and Nevtons with quick mind”.
Beginning of the way.
The future scholar owes to Elabuga only for his birth and first four years of life: Bekhterevs family, when Volodya was 4 years old, moved to Vyatka (now Kirov). In 1867 Bekhterev began his studies at Vyatka school. Strangely enough, but he learned poorly: in the final certificate there were just two “B” (on physics and law of God), the rest were “C”. Vyatka was “too narrow” for Bekhterev, so he immediately responded to casual announcement about admission to the Medical-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg after the 7th class of school.
Ironically, he had no intention to devote himself to medicine, but the prospects to remain in Vyatka attracted him even less. Studing in the Academy since 1873, Bekhterev wanted to devote himself to obstetrics: he was interested in application of the fundamental laws of mechanics in such a “delicate matter”, a person's birth. But interest in neuropathology and psychiatry took the top. After 3 courses Bekhterev on a wave of patriotic feelings left for the war in Bulgaria. His campaign lasted for 4 months and ended with a fever caused by night on damp ground.
In a year after graduating from the Academy, in 1879, Bekhterev was accepted to active members of St. Petersburg Society of Psychiatrists. After 2 years he defended his doctoral dissertation in medicine and got the rank of private-docent. In 1883 Bekhterev was awarded the Silver Medal of the Society of working doctors for the article where he paid attention to the fact that nerve diseases are often accompanied by mental disorders. In 1884 he was sent abroad to learn from Europe's leading psychologists of the time. Internships at clinics of Germany, Austria and France helped him to accumulate knowledge and experience. In the same 1884 Bekhterev became a professor at Kazan University at the department of mental diseases. In Kazan he created the Society of Neurologists and psychiatrists, he also founded the journal “Neurological Bulletin” in 1893 (was published under the editorship of Bekhterev until 1918).
In spring of 1893 Bekhterev received an invitation to lead the department of mental and nervous diseases in St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy.
Vocation - in science.
In 1902 in the work “Fundamentals of the theory of brain functions” he systematized general provisions on the activities of brain. Bekhterev opened nucleus and pathways in brain; found anatomic-physiologic base of balance and spatial orientation by finding in the cortex of brain centers of movement and secretion of internal organs. Based on the theory of conditioned reflexes, Bekhterev created a new doctrine - reflexology. In 1907-1910 Bekhterev published three volumes of book “Objective Psychology”. The scientist affirmed that all psychological processes are accompanied by reflex motor responses that are available to monitor and record. Name the scientist became the basis for Bekhterev diseases, reflexes of Mendel-Bekhterev, Bekhterev-Jacobson. Bekhterev’s mixture was widely used as a sedative. To assess the symptoms of some diseases Bekhterev created special devices (dolorimeter, allowing to measure accurately pain sensitivity; piesimeter - a device for measuring sensitivity). For treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases Bekhterev launched psychotherapy by method of diversion, collective psychotherapy. In 1908, the scientist created Neuropsychiatric Institute in St. Petersburg and became its director.
Telepathy, hypnotism and strangeness of fate.
Being in sympathy with revolutionaries, he organized their secret meetings in clinic of his Institute, because of this he soon came under surveillance of secret police. Bekhterev met enthusiastically the revolution of 1917. In 1918 the scientist applied to Council of Peoples Commissars with petition for organization of Institute for Study of brain and mental activity. Brain Institute was established, and Bekhterev until his death was its director. Fate commanded with irony typical for it: the first brain in the museum was of its creator. Subsequently, the brainchild of the scientist was named National Institute for Study of Brain after V. M. Bekhterev.
Sinuous twist of fate in 1921 brought together Bekhterev and animal trainer V.L. Durov (a distant descendant of the famous cavalry-girl N.A. Durova by origin from Elabuga), together they held tests of mental suggestion of preconceived actions to trained dogs. As for telepathy Bekhterev said after the experiments: “do not denying in principle <its existence>, we must recognize that ... thought-transference in the present state of our knowledge is completely unproven”.
The mysterious death.
In 1927 Bekhterev was awarded the title of Honoured Scientist of the RSFSR, and on December 24 of that same year the scientist died. He died so suddenly and quickly (got poisoned by canned food late in the evening and at night he died) that a legend appeared: the scientist was “removed” by order of Stalin. It should be noted that the origins of this legend are very plausible.
In December 1927 Bekhterev, preparing himself to leave for Congress of Neurologists and Psychiatrists from Leningrad to the capital, received a telegram from Kremlin’s medical administration asking him to contact the administration after arrival to Moscow. Bekhterev got late to the meeting of Congress on December 22. Asked about the reason for the delay, he replied that he “examined a paranoid having a withered arm”. Soon Bekhterev’s colleagues found out that the scientist was summoned to the Kremlin in connection with Stalin’s arm problem being in progress: a disease of paranoia was diagnosed in passing. Bekhterev was influential and authoritative, and was unlikely to be cautious with the diagnosis of Stalin, who by that time had not yet turned into a dictator. For the diagnosis of “paranoia” that defines a chronic mental disorder characterized by obsessive delusions, 70-year-old man, who used to tell the truth as a doctor and a psychologist was “punished” - poisoned. This could have done “pharmacist” Henry Yagoda who had available toxicologists, special laboratory and office with poisons. Versions that the scientist was poisoned are held by many medical professionals. Obituary in “Messenger of knowledge” said then that the cause of death was gastro-intestinal disease. This conclusion is valued by supporters of version that Bekhterev was poisoned as “vague and unprofessional” conclusion. Strangely enough is that representatives of the National Health Committee decided not to do the autopsies and pathologic-anatomic research, and decided just to remove the brain. The body, supposedly according to the will of the scientist, was cremated, even if all the relatives of Bekhterev (except his wife) were against it. Bekhterev’s death generated a version-legend with many unknowns, but this version is not yet refuted either confirmed. Honors corresponding to the time were rendered to Bekhterev: solemn funeral, attention to his writings and perpetuation of his name in the toponymy of the country: village Sarali where the scientist was born, was renamed in Bekhterevo.
By the 1000 anniversary of Elabuga, museum of county Medicine named after V.M.Bekhterev was opened.