In the very first Code of bylaws of the Romanian Academic Society, adopted at the first General Assembly in 1867, three sections were established: Philology-Literature, History-Archaeology and Natural Sciences. Alongside mathematics, physics and chemistry, the biological and medical sciences were contained within the framework of this last-mentioned Section, which began to actually function in 1871.

The Institute of Cellular Biology and Pathology
Nicolae Simionescu

The first president of the Section was the doctor and naturalist Anastasie Fatu, founder of the Botanical Gardens in Iasi, the first of its kind in the country. In that same period of ground-breaking, Nicolae Kretzulescu was to become the first physician elected President of the Academy (in 1872) and one of the founders of Romanian medical education.

At the same time that the Romanian Academic Society became the Romanian Academy, the Section of Natural Sciences changed its name to the Scientific Section. Grigore Antipa, founder of the Museum of Natural History in Bucharest which bears his name, was the Secretary of this Section for 20 years. A student of Ernst Haeckel at Jena, Antipa dedicated himself primarily to the biology of underwater animals, i.e. hydrobiology. His studies of the animal life in the Black Sea, the Danube River and the Danube Delta are now classics. One of the illustrious directors of this museum was the zoologist Constantin Motas, a renowned hydrobiologist and biospeleologist. Here we should also mention Emil Racovita, founder of the world’s first speleological institute in Cluj, a member of academic societies in France and Belgium, and one of the participants in the Belgian Antarctic expedition of 1897-1899. Near the South Pole, Racovita discovered numerous unknown species and made unique observations about the birds and whales. However, his name is linked primarily to the founding of biospeleology, the science of the fascinating animal life strictly specific to caves. The Speleological Institute of the Romanian Academy now bears his name. Of those who continued Racovita’s work after World WarII, one of the principal scientists was the above-mentioned Constantin Motas, who created the specialty called phreatobiology, meaning the study of animal life in ground water strata. Among the uniquely valuable collections of the Antipa Museum is the enormous collection of lepidopterae (approximately 125,000 specimens), donated by the entomologist and academician Aristide Caradja who discovered thousands of species of butterflies and compiled the most comprehensive catalog of microlepteropterae.

Chronologically, the first Romanian school, that is, the first autochthonous research center devoted uniquely to medicine, was that founded by Victor Babes, namely the Institute of Pathology and Bacteriology in Bucharest, which was the point of departure of the other national medical schools. This Romanian scholar, along with A.V.Cornil, published (in France) the world’s first treatise on bacteriology, and was recognized as one of the founders of modern microbiology. He discovered and described over 50 pathogenic microorganisms, and made classic contributions to the study of rabies, diphtheria and other infectious diseases, as well as serotherapy and immunology.

Many internationally renowned scholars were students of Babes, even though they worked in other specialties. Among them was the neurologist Gheorghe Marinescu, one of the founders of modern neurology and author of the well-known treatise La cellule nerveuse which appeared in Paris in 1909. An impressive number of "firsts" are connected to the research of Gheorghe Marinescu in the fields of the morphophysiopathology of the neuron, pathological anatomy of the nervous system, and others. He was among the first to use electroencephalography in the study of certain maladies, and the first to use motion pictures for scientific purposes.

Another Romanian medical school that attained international prestige was that founded by Ion Cantacuzino, whose institute bears his name today. Cantacuzino made numerous contributions to pathology and the prevention and treatment of infectious and contagious diseases, for example cholera, typhus exanthematicus (spotted fever), tuberculosis, streptococcal infections, leprosy, scarlet fever and others. Like Babes, Cantacuzino was trained at the Pasteur Institute in Paris; he was one in a lengthy series of Romanian scientists have maintained to this day, through schools founded in Romania, an active collaboration with the illustrious Pasteur Institute. His name is tied to the internationally renowned "La grande expérience roumaine" (the great Romanian experiment), through which the practical value of anti-cholera vaccines was proved, after they had been used successfully during the epidemic of 1913, in the time of the Balkan War. In 1923, the League of Nations recognized his efforts in the worldwide fight against epidemics. Likewise we should mention his important contribution to the study of invertebrate immunology.

Constantin Levaditi, initially trained in Babes’ school, later came to occupy a prominent position among those schooled at the Pasteur Institute. In his over 750 published papers, Levaditi made unusually important and original contributions to the fields of virology and immunology, as well as to the treatment of syphilis with bismuth. One of C. Levaditi’s students and assistants, also trained at the Pasteur Institute, was Professor Stefan S. Nicolau. Their collaboration was exceptionally fruitful, producing new concepts in virology, a new Romanian scientific school, a research institute of the Romanian Academy called the Institute of Virology Stefan S. Nicolau, and a Virology Department established in 1942 at the Medical in Bucharest School of Medicine, the first of its kind in the world. Their tradition has been carried on under the direction of Professor Nicolae Cajal (b.1919). Amongst Stefan S. Nicolau’s most important scientific contributions we will cite only a few, such as the multi-etyology of viral hepatitis, the concept of the atrovirus and the infravirus, the biophytism of viruses, the implication of certain viruses in oncogenesis and others.

Another influential and important personality in the medical sciences was Constantin I. Parhon, founder of the national school of endocrinology. Parhon was probably the first European to make the connection between endocrine functions and nerve cells, creating the concept of neuro-endocrine integration. Along with his creative activities in endocrinology, neurology and psychiatry, Parhon undertook pioneering research in gerontology, affirming that, "aging is a pathological state" which could be treated, thus prolonging life expectancy. Professors Stefan Milcu and Ana Aslan were trained at his school. Milcu, the author of numerous reference works in the field of endocrinology relating to the pathogenesis of endocrine diseases, was Secretary General and then Vice President of the Romanian Academy.

Francisc Rainer was a pioneer in the domains of anatomy and anthropology, and was made an Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy in 1943. Rainer based the study of anatomy on the concept of functional structures, seeking to show the determining role of physiological factors in the modeling of life forms. He founded the Center for Anthropological Research in Bucharest, which bears his name and houses his collection of over 6000 skulls, a priceless anthropological document.

Daniel Danielopolu, a pioneer and founder of his own school in the domain of physiopathology, was a great theoretician and experimentalist in modern medicine as well as a genuine forerunner in the domains of biocybernetics and pharmacology. He also made original and valuable discoveries concerning the neuro-vegetative system.

Rainer’s disciples include major personalities, in the front rank of whom stands George Emil Palade, Nobel Prize laureate for medicine and physiology in 1974, and elected Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy in 1975. Settled in the United States, Palade undertook cellular research with the aid of electron microscopes, evidencing a series of cellular structures and components, as well as their functions. He defined for the first time the delicate structure of the mitochondria (the primary energy source of cells), observed and described ribosomes and their role in the synthesis of proteins, and studied the endoplasmic reticulum and chemical synapses.

Among his close collaborators figure Professors Nicolae Simionescu and Maya Simionescu, founders of the Institute of Cellular Biology and Pathology of the Romanian Academy, which now bears the name of Professor Nicolae Simionescu. The principal scope of this Institute’s research is the cellular biology and pathology of the cardio-vascular system in health and disease, especially its modifications in atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Doctor Nicolae Paulescu merits a special mention here. Physiology professor at the School of Medicine in Bucharest, he was responsible for the discovery of the role of the pancreas in diabetes as well as of insulin (which he called "pancreatina," pancreatine), and of the treatment of this disease with pancreas aqueous extract.

In 1948, separate sections were established for the biological sciences and the medical sciences. The Section of Biological Sciences comprises the Institutes of Biochemistry, Biology, Speleology and Cellular Biology and Pathology. Research into the interaction of glicoproteins with proteins in the process of biosynthesis is the main field of study of the Institute of Biochemistry. The Institute of Biology has a broad field of activities among which are research projects regarding the functional biology of microorganisms under extreme environmental conditions and the study of the ecosystems in the flood-prone Lower Danube and Danube Delta region. We should also mention the ecological research station near Sinaia and the reservation of the Retezat Scientific Park. The Institute of Speleology has distinguished itself through biospeleological research in hypoxic environments, especially in the Movile cave near Mangalia (Dobrogea) where approximately 30 specimens of invertebrates adapted to an atmosphere rich in hydrogen sulphide (H2S) were discovered. The Institute of Cellular Biology and Pathology has obtained uniquely valuable results in the study of the cellular alteration of the vascular walls in atherosclerosis and diabetes associated with atherosclerosis; these results have been published in prestigious international journals and books.

Some of the most important periodicals published by the Biology Section are Revue roumaine de biologie (with the series Biologie Végétale et Biologie Animale), Revue roumaine de biochimie, Theoretical and Applied Karstology and Travaux de l’Institut de Spéologie "Emil Racovitza".

The Medical Sciences Section coordinates the Institute of Virology and the Centers of Anthropology and Immunology. The Institute of Virology has developed important research programs in the domain of certain viral diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, respiratory viral diseases, etc., with notable results in health care. The Center for Immunology is internationally recognized for its original research into cell receptors. The Center for Anthropological Research combines, in a multidisciplinary synthesis, medical anthropology, cultural anthropology and paleoanthropology.

This Section’s most important periodical publications are: Romanian Journal of Virology, Annuaire d’Anthropologie, Romanian Neurosurgery, Romanian Journal of Biophysics, Romanian Journal of Neurology, Romanian Journal of Endocrinology, Romanian Journal of Morphology and Embryology, Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine, and Romanian Journal of Physiology.



copyright © Romanian Academy 2006

copyright © Academia Română 2006