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Jan Mikulicz-Radecki

Born 1850
Died 1905

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Polish surgeon, born May 16, 1850, Czerniowce, Bukowina, Romania; died June 4, 1905, Wroclaw, Germany. His name is often given in the German form: Johannes Freiherr von Mikulicz-Radecki; born in Czernowitz, died in Breslau.

Biography of Jan Mikulicz-Radecki

Johann Freiherr von Mikulicz-Radecki studied in Vienna from 1869, received his medical doctorate there in 1875 and subsequently worked for three years as an apprentice in surgery under the guidance of Theodor Billroth (1829-1894). He was Billroth’s assistant from 1875 to 1882. Having been habilitated as Privatdozent of surgery in Vienna in 1880, he became professor ordinarius of surgery and director of the surgical clinic in Kraków in 1882. In 1887 he was called to the same position at the University of Königsberg, and from 1890 until his death in 1905 at Breslau.

Mikulicz contributed prodigiously to cancer surgery, especially on organs of the digestive system. He was first to suture a perforated gastric ulcer (1885), surgically restore part of the oesophagus (1886), remove a malignant part of the colon (1903), and describe what is now known ass Mikulicz’ disease. In 1881 he developed improved models of the oesophagoscope and gastroscope.

As an ardent advocate of antiseptics he contributed to its perfection. He used a gauze mask and was one of the first to use gloves during surgery. Rubber gloves were subsequently introduced by William Stewart Halsted (1852-1922) to protect the hands of his head nurse who was sensitive to the antiseptics and whom Halsted later married. The gloves were designed by the American tyre millionaire inventor of the vulcanisation process Charles Goodyear (1800-1860), who was a good friend of Halsted.

Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875-1951), his protégé, devised a pressure chamber which enabled Mikulicz and he to become the originators of modern thoracic surgery, since they could operate without causing collapse of the lungs.

Mikulicz made Breslau an international centre for surgery. Perhaps because of his origins he was frequently consulted by people from Latvia and neighbouring areas. One time he corrected a phimosis (narrowing of the prepucial opening) of the son of a nobleman, who after the success of the operation had a banquet in his honour. By midnight only half the courses were served and Mikulicz felt satiated, but on the stroke of midnight 12 barbers with assistants entered, shaved their guests and refreshed them with hot and cold compresses and then withdrew for the banquet to continue.

Mikulicz was a perfectionist and a sentimentalist who loved music and was an able pianist. When he realised he was dying of cancer he asked Sauerbruch to write his obituary, which he himself edited.

With Bernhard Naunyn (1839-1935)m, Mikulicz-Radecki in 1896 founded Mitteilungen aus dem Grenzgebieten der Medizin und Chirurgie.

We thank Jaroslaw Kuzdzal, MD, for information submitted.

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