Photo Credit: Errabee

Brain Surgery that Helped Crazy Russian General Kutozov Defeat Napolean

It was a classic case of burning Rome and taking shelter elsewhere when enemies are invading. That was what a Russian general did two centuries ago when Napoleon was invading Moscow in 1812.

Not confronting Napoleon Bonaparte, Gen. Mikhail Kutuzov ordered Moscow to be burned and he fled to safety with his army in the eastern part of the city. It could have been termed a crazy idea but the incredible decision was taken by Kutuzov, who was shot twice in the head in 1774 and in 1788 and was operated upon by a French surgeon Jen Massot.

On June 24, 1812 Napolean along with his enormous army invaded Russia, trying to conquer Russia but his endeavor failed precisely because General Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov did something ecstatic that nobody could have thought of and it was his crazy thinking that won them the war as winter-struck French army either died or retreated in a haste without food in a burnt-down Moscow.

Now, in a groundbreaking discovery scientists have found that a miraculous brain surgery that Kutozov underwent helped him to cease Napolean and his army to take over Russia in 1812.


Photo Credit: R.M. Volkov

Scientists at the Barrow Neurological Institute, Arizona spent over a couple of years of international inspection, around three continents to unravel that a fascinating surgery performed by Jean Massot, a French surgeon on Kutozov after the latter was shot right through the head twice, helped Kutozov to defeat Napolean and his army.

However, Barrow scientists through their inspection discovered that Jean Massot possessed a very significant part in Kutozov’s story because the former performed the life-saving surgery by utilizing techniques that presaged modern neurosurgery, and helped Kutozov live to fight Napolean.

Mark C. Preul who is the chairman of neurosurgery research director at Barrow said that the aim of the research was to discover the real events that unfolded back then and who the surgeon was that performed this life-saving surgery on Kutozov.

He added that information about Massot was “somewhat buried,” and he is the frontline of surgical technique as he used the modern techniques that doctors use today.

The scientists gathered proof, which said that after Kutozov was hurt from the first bullet in a war with the Turks in Crimea in 1774, it has damaged his frontal lobe. This discovery clarified Kutozov’s intermittent behavior and decision making after the injury. However, the proof also hinted at the interesting strategy Kutozov undertook in order to conquest Napolean and his strong “Grande Armee”.

His intermittent behavior and decision making was noticed by eye witnesses – something that occurred right after the first bullet wound. Therefore, other than encountering Napolean’s army in 1812, he postponed a confrontation and instead ordered Moscow to be burned. With his army, he escaped to the east of Moscow that was a safe option. Napolean and his “Grande Armee” continued to invade Moscow and soon faced the crude winter conditions of Moscow. This made Napolean give up on his army forces in December and go back to Paris in loss.

Preul explained that the brain surgery did save Kutozov’s life; nevertheless his brain and eye were poorly wounded. But Preul stressed on the irony of the “healing resolution” of Kutozov’s condition, which actually made him take the best decision. If he had not been injured, he may have challenged Napolean and faced defeat, said researchers.

Preul, however, has said that certain questions concerning Kutozov’s wounds and Massot’s surgeries on them, can’t be entirely met with answers without a medical test. Kutozov’s body was never clinically tested since his autopsy soon after his demise in April 1813. Nevertheless, the findings prove one thing for sure that without Massot’s service; Kutozov wouldn’t have been able to take the best decision of his life.

Barrow scientists wrote although a few people would say that it was fate that permitted in the making of such an excellent Russian general, who turned out to personify “Russian spirit and character” for living through two near-dead bullet injuries, “the best neurological technique of the day seems to have been overlooked as a considerable part of Kutozov’s success.”

The paper titled as “Two bullets to the head and an early winter: fate permits Kutozov to defeat Napolean at Moscow” has been published in the “Journal of Neurosurgery”.

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