Last update:


Arch Hellen Med, 37(Supplement 2), 2020, 68-73


Professor Andrzej Biernacki – Precursor of Nephrology in Poland

J. Ostrowski
Department of the History of Medicine, Centre of Postgraduate Medical Education, Warsaw, Poland

It was in the mid-20th century that nephrology started to emerge as an independent specialty and Professor Witold Orłowski is regarded as its father. His remarkable successor was Professor Andrzej Biernacki (1903–1963). Born in Lublin, Andrzej Biernacki graduated from the Medical Department of Warsaw University. During university times, he worked at the National Hygiene Institute headed by Ludwik Hirszfeld and trained at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Then he went to a Polish colony in Brazil to study the health conditions there. On returning from Brazil, he accepted a post in the 2nd Department of Internal Medicine in Warsaw, headed by Witold Orłowski. In the 1930s, he did an internship in Vienna in Professor Wilhem Neuman's clinic and at the Forlanini Institute in Rome, and later in Davos and Paris. Staying in Italy and Germany, he could sense the atmosphere of the war lurking behind the corner. Back in Poland, he continued his work at Orlowski's clinic. During WWII, he fought in the resistance and worked in the Second Department of Internal Medicine at the University's Secret Medical Department. After the war, he organised the 1st Department of Internal Medicine. As a WHO scholarship holder, he trained in the USA in 1947. Already a professor, in 1958 as the chairman of the Nephrology Development Committee at the Ministry of Health, whose members were also Prof Jan Roguski and Prof Tadeusz Orłowski, he brought 2 Alwall's artificial kidneys to Poland. At his clinic in 1959, the team headed by Tadeusz Orłowski performed the first dialysis session in Warsaw. Biernacki's portfolio includes 75 own works and over 400 conceived under his supervision. The issues investigated concerned lung diseases, including pulmonary tuberculosis, and cardiology. However, his work on nephrology deserves special attention. It deals with key problems of division of hypertension, its malignant phase with changes in the kidneys and pharmacological and balneological treatment. He also describes the case of paroxysmal haemoglobinuria, genitourinary tuberculosis. Additionally, his work concerns the symptoms of uraemia in kidney amyloidosis, the problem of the circadian rhythm of urine production depending on the circulatory capacity and later also the possibility of haemodialysis treatment, including the treatment of mercury poisoning. Nephrology-related topics raised by A. Biernacki were continued by his co-workers and students. Andrzej Biernacki had numerous non-medical interests. He was an expert on music and husband to Grażyna Bacewicz, the outstanding Polish composer and violinist.

Key words: Andrzej Biernacki, History of dialysis in Poland, History of Νephrology in Poland.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine