IEPHB RAS / ABOUT INSTITUTE
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Since the 1950s, the history of the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry has been inseparably linked with the name of Academician Leon Abgarovich Orbeli, an outstanding Soviet physiologist who has laid the foundations of a new branch of science — evolutionary physiology.
In October 1950, the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences sanctioned the organization of Academician Orheli's research group. Initially, it included eight people, and was concerned with the higher nervous activity in children. In September 1954, the group was expanded and transformed into a Laboratory of Evolutionary Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, with the main object of studying functions of the nervous system in animals and man during ontogenesis, and also the effect of ionizing radiation on animals. At the beginning of 1955, the Laboratory had a personnel of thirty seven.
In January 1956, the Laboratory was reorganized into an Institute of Evolutionary Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was named after Ivan Sechenov, and Academician Orbeli became its first Director. In April 1956, the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences ratified the Institute's structure and approved a plan of research for the next few years, submitted by Academician Orbeli. In the same year, construction of the first laboratory block on Staropargolovsky Prospekt (now Maurice Thorez Prospekt) was started.
The main task of the Institute as formulated when the project began, was to study developmental pathways of some functions of animal organisms during onto- and phylogenesis; to reveal the basic principles of the development and mechanisms of the function transformation under the influence of environmental factors; and to investigate specific rules of improvement of physiological mechanisms of the higher nervous activity in children, controlled by biological laws and the progress of human society.
By the end of 1957, the Institute numbered 9 laboratories, one of them being transferred from the former Leshaft Natural Research Institute. Now, along with physiological laboratories, new biochemical and morphological laboratories and a laboratory of the pathology of the higher nervous activity in man were opened.
Unfortunately Academician Orbeli did not complete the reorganization work. His untimely death on 9 December 1958 put an end to his ambitious plans. However, he succedcd in doing the most important things; thanks to his efforts, evolutionary physiology acquired a reliable scientific and ideological basis, a broad perspective, and a solid structural backing.
After his death the Institute was headed by his immediate collaborator, Alexander Grigoryevich Ginetsinsky, Corresponding Member of Academy of Medical Sciensec USSR. Professor Ginetsinsky, himself a prominent physiologist, enlisted the cooperation of well-known scientists and qualified specialists, and thus contributed largely to further extension and progress of the Institute.
From June 1960 to March 1975, the Institute was guided by Academician Evgeny Mikhailovich Kreps. A pupil of Pavlov and Orbeli's collaborator, Kreps is known for his fundamental studies in the field of comparative physiology and biochemistry of the nervous system. Under the direction of E. M. Kreps, the Institute was enlarged and supplied with modern technical equipment. Academician Kreps successfully promoted research in evolutionary biochemistry, due to which the Institute was given a new name in 1964 — the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry.
In 1967 the second laboratory block was put into service, which permitted a wider scope of investigation in major trends of evolutionary physiology, biochemistry and morphology. By the end of 1967, the Institute had 23 laboratories and 2 research groups.
In November 1969, a monument to Academician Orbeli, the founder of the Institute, was erected in front of the first laboratory block on Maurice Thorez Prospekt.
In 1975 Vladimir Alexandrowich Govyrin, Academician, was appointed Director of the Institute, where he had come to work as early as 1956. Govyrin's name is associated with important discoveries in the physiology of the vegetative nervous system. During the years of his directorship, the 22 laboratories and 6 research groups were divided into 5 departments (sections), each with its own specific range of experimental problems. At the same time, a special analytical investigation unit and a scientific information section were organized.
From 1981 to 2004, the Institute was headed by Vladimir Leonidovich Svidersky, Member of Academy of Scicnses, a prominent specialist in the field of comparative and evolutionary physiology of the nervous system and former Head of one of the oldest Institute laboratories, the Laboratory of Neurophysiology of Invertebrates.
Since 2004, the Institute is headed by N.P.Vesselkin, Corresponding Member of RAS, distinguished
neuroscientist, head of Laboratory of Neuronal Interaction.