Sergei Semionovich Abramov
Biography of Sergei Semionovich Abramov
Who was Dr. Abramov?
There is a special, often fatal, and still not entirely understood kind of myocarditis with giant cells, called Abramov–Fiedler myocarditis. In later literature it was concluded that Abramov described dilated cardiomyopathy, and Fiedler – primary diffuse myocarditis, both with severe course and immunopathological component of pathogenesis. Life and deeds of Karl-Ludwig Alfred Fiedler (1835–1921), who described it as idiopathic disease in German literature in 1900, are well known to the medical community and available elsewhere,12 but his Russian colleague, who published the original description 3 years prior to Fiedler’s, is much less known. Even Russian sources in Soviet period just mentioned him as “domestic physician of late XIX – early XX century”, without details or dates of his life. But now we know much more of his hectic life of a refugee.
Sergei Semionovich Abramov [fig. 1] was born to the family of a state official, in the southern city of Nakhichevan’ located in the Eryvanskaya province in the Transcaucasus region of the Russian Empire (now it is in Azerbaijan).
His father was of Armenian origin, his great-grandfather Ovanes Abramyan (died 1813) was an officer of Suvorov’s army and took part in the Russian–Turkish war. He founded the new Nakhichevan’ city, and was its first Mayor. Soon after Sergei’s birth his family moved to Rostov-on-Don, where Sergei grew up. He entered Khar’kov University, later transferred to Moscow University and graduated from its Medical Faculty with honors in 1899.20
Abramov described a case of special myocarditis with cardiomegaly and its autopsy picture as early as in 1897, while a medical student. Because of his gift and inclination to Anatomic Pathology, after graduation he has got a stipend for postgraduate fellowship in this field. In 1899–1|901 Abramov worked at the Department of Anatomic Pathology under the guidance of the eminent pathologist and bacteriologist Professor Mikhail Nikiforovich Nikiforov (1858–1915), eponymous for his invention of Nikiforov’s mixture (96% ethanol and diethyl ether, taken half by half for fixation of tissues and smears).
In 1901 Abramov returned to Rostov-on-Don, where he worked as a prosector at the Nikolayevskaya hospital and established there the first prosectorium in the history of that city and region (1902–1903). His PhD Thesis was dedicated to pathogenesis of jaundice in different liver disorders (1905). He defended it in Moscow University. In 1906 he was elected for the position of Privatdozent of Anatomic Pathology there and in 1906-1908 lectured in Anatomic Pathology and Bacteriology. He combined academic activities with practical work of prosector at Saint Sophia’s Paediatric Hospital (1908–1912), at Moscow General Military Hospital (1912–1918) and also at Moscow Orphanage (1912–1920).
Abramov’s sphere of academic interests included experimental Immunology and Microbiology. In 1909-1919 he headed the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology and Sera Testing at the Moscow Bacteriological Institute, under the guidance of the bacteriologist Filipp Markovich Blumenthal (1859-1927), one of the pioneers of Phthisiology in Russia. Dr. Abramov published several works in Bacteriology, including a guide, acclaimed by physicians and republished several times in Russia and abroad.
From 1918 he was an Academic Secretary of his University. As a Professor of Bacteriology, Abramov part-time collaborated with the State Higher Medical School for Women (1919). He was also appointed head of the laboratory at the Main Military Sanitary Administration of the Red Army (1918).
Before WWI he visited several leading foreign laboratories and Universities for staging and refreshing in Anatomic Pathology and Immunology. For example in 1910 he studied the influence of pH on complement binding at Paul Ehrlich’s lab in Germany. The period of Civil War was full of deprivation and absolutely not suitable for academic work. Because of that Abramov decided to emigrate and used for it his business trip to the frontline.
During the Soviet-Polish war of 1920 he escaped from Soviet Russia across the loose frontline, via Poland to Berlin. More than a year he spent in the Berlin University, where he studied the pathomorphology of exanthemata and published a paper in this field. Later he moved to Bulgaria, like many Russian emigrants of that period.
1921–1924 Abramov was the first Chairman and Professor of the Department of General and Anatomic Pathology at the University of Sofia. The Medical Faculty Had just recently been established there (1918) and half of teachers were refugees from Russia.24 Here Abramov published the first ever Bulgarian textbook in Pathology (“The pathological processes”, 1923). [fig. 1] In 1924 he moved to France and worked at the Russian Faculty of Sorbonne, where emigrants studied.
Dr. Abramov was a prolific writer, versatile and a socially active person. He authored a fiction novel “Fall of Acropolis”, collaborated in public societies of Russian physicians abroad. In Germany he edited a Russian medical journal “Vrachebnoe Obozrenie” (Medical Review) and fruitfully worked with “Vrach” Publishers. A German-Russian publishing house “Vrach” several times republished his textbook and atlas in infectious Pathology. Another publisher, “Universal Russian Publ.” in Berlin issued his books in current problems of Immunology (1921) and Gerontology (1921-22).
Also Abramov translated from German and commented for “Vrach” a the textbook “Fundamentals of Anatomic Pathology” by H. Schmaus (1922-23). In Bulgaria he was a Chairperson of the Society of Russian Physicians from the date of its foundation, in France was among leaders of the I.I. Mechnikov Society of Russian Physicians and Moscow University Alumni Society. It is not surprising, that the Association of Russian Physicians Abroad during its 1st congress in Paris (1936) elected him Chairman of its Board.
During the years 1941–1945 Abramov lived in Germany. As an emigrant and resident of Nazi Germany, he did not expect a warm welcome in the USSR, so after the victory of the anti-Nazi coalition he preferred to leave Germany for the USA, where he spent his last years, 26 no longer academically active.
Who knows, what heights could reach Russian Medicine if all these talented physicians were not separated by Civil War on Reds and Whites, but for lifelong collaborated in domestic health care, like red and white blood cells in streaming blood?
To resume, I feel most appropriate here the verses by a present-day Russian poet Alexandre Kushner:
“Your epoch is not for trying.
It's for living and for dying.
There is no blander pose
Than to bargain and protest,
As if times could these for those
Be exchanged upon request.
Every age seems Age of Iron,
But a garden shines inspiring… .
Leonid P. Churilov,