During the period when on one side, the French Revolution was commencing the battle “…for the freedoms and rights of man…,” and on the other side, through the works of Chernishevski and others, the Russian ideology of “westernism” was achieving its culmination, there appeared here the beginnings of activity in the elevation of the level of enlightenment in general, and in particular of culture pertaining to health. The Europeanisation of the way of life, culture, and in particular of science, began to change the former oriental picture of this area. At the head of that national and social transformation, together with a small number of young Serbian intelligentsia of the time, was the “United Youth of Serbia,” which was very often an advocate of the novel and progressive during these times of change. Among those intellectuals, who after completing their studies at one of the European Universities, returned to Serbia, was also a group of physicians “…awarded scholarships for medical expertise…” Led by the ideas of the “United Youth of Serbia,” dreaming of freedom, and looking far into the future of its people, they would become the founders and advocates of modern medical thought and science both in Serbia as well as the wider Balkan region. Among that, not so numerous pleiad of young Serbian intellectuals, particularly striking was the social figure of a young military doctor from Belgrade, Dr. Vladan Djordjević – in later years a member of the Serbian Royal Academy, a politician, a writer, and a social worker. As a witness of a particular time, he would give the whole political and cultural life in the Serbia of that time a particular quality.
From such a national awakening of a still semi-vassal Serbia, during the seventies of the nineteenth century (1872), the Serbian Medical Society would emerge. The founding of this society came after the cultural literary society from Novi Sad, “Serbian Repository” (“Matica Srpska”) (1826), the first secondary schools in Sremski Karlovci, Kragujevac, and Belgrade, then the “lycées” in Kragujevac and Belgrade, “Serbian News” (1834), and Bujić’s theatre (1834-1836), and before the “Serbian Learned Society” (1886). Becoming one of the “hot spots of Serbian science,” the Serbian Medical Society represents the historical heritage of its people, its medical and general culture. As far back as mid-1842, two Belgrade doctors: Dr. Karlo Paček (our first balneologist) and Dr. Emerih Lindermajer (the first chief of military health care), “suggested the formation of a Medical library in Belgrade, which would help doctors to keep abreast of modern scientific developments.” It has also been noted that two other Belgrade doctors: Dr. Aćim Medović (a professor at the Great School) and Dr. Jovan Valenta (the first director of the “Varoš Hospital in Palilula”), in the 60s of the previous century, instigated the idea, with similar goals, for the founding of a “Society of Belgrade Doctors.” Their idea was for this society to gather and direct towards professional specialisation, ten or so doctors who were working in Belgrade at that time. However, in both cases, all efforts failed “because of a lack of understanding from the authorities, as well as some other reasons…”
The founders of the Serbian Medical Society were: Aćim Medović, Jovan Mašin,
Djordje Klinkovski, Jovan Valenta, Panajot Papakostopulos, Josif Holjec,
Bernard Bril, Sava Petrović, Julijus Lenk, Marko Polak,
Vladan Djordjević, Petar Ostojić and the dentist Ilija Ranimir.
The founders would soon be joined by Josif Pančić and Mladen Janković, who were absent from the first meeting.
At the second meeting, which was held on 15 June of the same year, the “First Constitution of the Society” was written,
which was sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for approval. The letter accompanying the text of the Constitution was signed by all
of the attendant doctors:
“…Mr. Minister, the Belgrade doctors who have signed their names below, having in mind in which scientific milieu
they would find opportunities and resources, that in spite of their great work-load that requires their whole time of them,
nevertheless keep in step with the current developments in general medicine through јесташтбеничких servant sciences,
have formed the Serbian Medical Society, proposed the Society’s goal and resources, displayed in the enclosed Constitution
of the Serbian Medical Society in Belgrade, and we request the Mr. Minister of Internal Affairs, to please allow us,
to found this society based on the elements presented…”
An answer to this letter soon reached the Society, containing the following text:
“…the proposed constitution, by his decision S.N. no. 944 on 8 June 1872, has been approved by the Minister of Internal Affairs,
thus confirming the basic idea behind the guiding principle of the Society…”
With nine regular, one honorary, and 34 correspondent members from the interior, as well as “24 doctors from Slavic and other countries,” on 5 August 1872, the Serbian Medical Society officially commenced its regular work. Even during these early days, in addition to dealing with professional questions at its meetings, the Society began to get engaged in professional work related to the medical, health, and social condition of the Serbian people. So that from the first moment on, it “…worked in particular on the statistics of diseases, not only in Serbia, but also in countries where Serbs live, in order to look for the causes of diseases, if they can be found in national and geographic characteristics, and to study remedies with which those causes can be eliminated most reliably…” In this way, “…the Serbian Medical Society from the very beginning of its mandate, became a Society for all Serbs, not only in Serbia itself, but also outside these borders…” – as was written by Dr. Vojislav Subotić (1922) in his “History of the Serbian Medical Society,” published on the occasion of the Society’s 50th anniversary
This journal of the Serbian Medical Society was displayed in the Serbian pavilion at the International Exhibition in London in 1901 and received first prize for technical expertise and editorship.
Related to the existence and endeavour of the Serbian Medical Society, that is to say, the doctors gathered within it, is the appearance of numerous important medical and social institutions in Serbia. First is the creation of the Serbian Red Cross Society (1876), then the Main Health Care Council (into which the Society nominated six members), then the preparation and founding of the Medical University in Belgrade from 1914-1920. Of particular importance is the active participation of the Serbian Medical Society in the formation of Serbian health-care legislation right up until 1941.