Journal of Neurology

, Volume 258, Issue 12, pp 2300–2301 | Cite as

Mykhailo Mykytovych Lapinsky (1862–1947)

  • S. M. Vinychuk
Pioneers in Neurology
The name of professor Mykhailo Mykytovych Lapinsky, well known for his fundamental work on experimental and clinical neurology, is almost unknown by the medical community, despite the fact that during his life he gained wide recognition not only in Ukraine and the Russian Empire but in many European countries as well. He was the first Head of the Nervous Disease Department of the Medical Faculty of St. Volodymyr Imperial University in Kiev, and—as an emigrant—founder of the Medical Faculty, Department and Clinic of Nervous and Mental Diseases at the University of Zagreb [1, 8].

Lapinsky was born on November 5, 1862, in the wealthy family of a college assessor in the village Smolygivka, province of Chernigov, northern Ukraine. After a successful graduation from Chernigov gymnasium, he studied at the Medical Faculty of St. Volodymyr University in Kiev. Upon graduating with honors from the Medical Faculty in 1891, he spent the following 2 years as a scholar of the Department of Nervous Diseases and Psychiatry, headed by the famous Professor I. Sikorsky.

In the years to follow, Lapinsky improved his knowledge in clinics and laboratories abroad: in Paris (St. Anne Hospital, with Raymond and Dejerine) and in Berlin (Charité Clinic, with the neurologist Oppenheim and the psychiatrist Jolly). In 1897 he returned home to defend the thesis "About the diseases of vessels by the damage of primary nervous trunks" [5], followed by yet another long research trip abroad. Also, in 1897 he carried out electrophysiological studies with professor Goltz (Strasbourg). In the years 1899–1900, Lapinsky once more worked in Germany, initially in Berlin with the psychiatrist Liepmann, then in Munich with Kraepelin and in Heidelberg with Erb.

Thus, the education of Lapinsky as clinician and scientist was influenced by the leading neurologists and psychiatrists of Germany and France. In his future scientific work he would transfer this broad orientation to colleagues and pupils in his homeland [7]. His bright abilities and diligence attracted the attention of the leaders of the medical faculty of the University of Kiev, and in 1901 he was appointed to a university post, initially as private lecturer. In 1903 he was nominated Head of the Department of Nervous Diseases as well as professor extraordinarius, to be followed by an ordinary professorship in 1904.

Lapinsky’s scientific interests were in the field of experimental as well as clinical neurology. He described the role of vasa vasorum in the development of nerve lesions, and also defined for the first time three stages of changes in arterial vessels after transaction of peripheral nerves. Other scientific works were devoted to the innervation of brain vessels and the structure of brain capillaries [3, 4, 6].

Experimentally exploring the localization of motor functions in the spinal cord (1901–1902), Lapinsky proposed a new concept of spinal motor centers, according to which the nuclei of anterior horns do not form an anatomical unit, but a functional association of synergists. This classic work laid the foundation for the study of localization of functions in the spinal cord. He also investigated reflex functions after spinal cord injury. The question about the changes of tendon reflexes below the level of spinal cord injury was controversial. Lapinsky experimentally proved that the reflex function is related to the mode of injury and to the time factor: transection of the cervical cord caused exaggeration of reflexes, gross trauma of the lower stump resulted in diminution of reflex responses, but reflexes returned again if the lower cord was carefully dissected.

Lapinsky’s research into degeneration and regeneration of peripheral nerve fibers after damage to the nerve trunk damage was summarized in the monograph "About degeneration and regeneration of peripheral nerves", which was published in Russia and Germany (1904). In 1913, his book "Essence of pain: its perception, conduction and mechanisms", appeared in the series "Clinical Monographs", in which book Lapinsky summarized the results of experimental and clinical studies on the pathophysiology of pain and of disorders of sensation. He also developed a theory to explain pain syndromes caused by specific lesions of organs in the pelvic cavity.

In 1918, Lapinsky was forced to emigrate, as he did not accept the requirements of the revolutionary dictatorship following the October Revolution. At first he lived in Vienna, and in 1921 he accepted an appointment as professor of Nervous and Mental Diseases at Zagreb University, where he established a clinic and the University Department of Nervous and Mental Diseases. Lapinsky worked in Zagreb until his retirement in 1928, after which he moved to Belgrade, where he initially lectured at the medical faculty of Belgrade University and then headed the Russian Red Cross Clinic from 1931 to 1934. Finally, Lapinsky emigrated to Argentina, where he died in 1947.

During the period of his emigration, Lapinsky published scientific articles on epidemic encephalitis, remote pain in liver diseases, neurosis, and also several popular scientific brochures devoted to the academician I. Pavlov. While living in Zagreb, he maintained friendly relationships with the Russian neurologists Bechterev and Rossolimo. He is the author of over 150 scientific publications. Some of Lapinsky’s disciples would become well-known professors: Mankovsky, Kyrychynsky, Lazarev, Goldblatt, and Vladychko.

The international scientist Lapinsky is remembered and esteemed at the National O. O. Bogomolets Medical University in Kiev as well as at Zagreb University. His portrait has an honorary place among other famous scientists in the conference hall of the O. O. Bogomolets University and in the Central Museum of Ukrainian Medicine. Also, a bust of Lapinsky has been placed in the Clinic of Nervous Diseases of Zagreb University [2].



The author expresses his gratitude to his collaborators at the Department of Neurology, candidate of Medical Science T.A. Dovbonos and master of Medicine K.V. Antonenko, for their assistance in preparing this publication.


  1. 1.
    Archangelsky GV (1996) Prominent Russian neurologist M.N. Lapinsky. Korsakoff’s J Neuropathol Psychiatry 96:101–106Google Scholar
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    Dugački V (2010) Ruski emigranti na Medicinskom fakultetu. Sveučilište u Zagrebu Medicinski fakultet List Medicinskog fakulteta 29 br 1:105–106Google Scholar
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    Lapinsky MN (1895) To the question about the width of capillary. Press of the St. Volodymyr University of V.I. Zavadsky, KievGoogle Scholar
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    Lapinsky MN (1896) To the question about structure of capillaries of cerebral cortex. Questions of neuro-psychiatric medicine 2, KievGoogle Scholar
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    Lapinsky MN (1897) About diseases of vessels by damage of primary nerve trunks. Thesis of MD. Press of S.V. Kulzenko, KievGoogle Scholar
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    Lapinsky MN (1903) About the innervations of brain vessels. Korsakoff’s J Neuropathol Psychiatry 3Google Scholar
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    Mankovsky BN (1947) To the history of the department of nervous diseases. Hundred years of the Kiev Medical Institute (1841–1941). Medhyz, Kiev, pp 125–137Google Scholar
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    Vinychuk SM (2005) Professor M. Lapinsky—the first Head of the Department of Nervous Diseases of Medical Faculty of the Kiev University of St. Volodymyr. History of Department of Nervous Diseases of the National O. O. Bogomolets Medical University, Kiev, pp 27–32Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyNational O.O. Bogomolets Medical UniversityKievUkraine

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