DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v3.2.2016.14g

Sergei G. Zhuravskii

The Pavlov First Saint Petersburg State Medical University
Russian archives retain three diary books by a renowned Russian physician S.P. Botkin (1832−1889), containing information relating to his service as Physician-in-Ordinary to the Tzar Family in 1872−1889. Botkin’s work notes provide an important source revealing the practical arrangement of the royal court medical care as pertaining to internal diseases and laboratory diagnostics. Their central theme is the health status of Alexander II (1818−1881) and his spouse, Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824−1880), in the last decade of their life. The everyday professional life of a court doctor is described in great detail: circumstances of medical examinations, physical examination results, clinical summaries, pharmaceutical prescriptions, guidelines on clinical nutrition, mineral water intake, climate therapy. The archive of the “elite” inscriptions contained in the diary books tracks the origins of contemporary clinical pharmacology with its patient-centered approach. Throughout the pages of the source, the author reveals himself in the little-known capacity of an empirical clinical psychologist. Diary entries show understanding of the pathogenic importance of the psychological background against which the internal abnormality develops and are indicative of the compliance level among the august patients. A number of fragments of daily comments along with a detailed post-mortem report of Empress Maria Alexandrovna constitute a unique material for consideration of the topic of deontological aspects of the service of the physician-in-ordinary to the Imperial family. Botkin’s notes provide an invaluable source of specific information exposing some private facts of life of the Imperial family in the described period of time. A targeted scientific study of the documents enables to consider the august personages’ individual health status as an independent factor in the historical process.

Keywords: history of medicine, service diaries, court medicine, physician-in-ordinary S.P. Botkin, S.P. Botkin as clinical psychologist, health and diseases of the Romanov dynasty, “everyday life history”

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