Jan Mikulicz-Radecki (1850-1905) – The forgotten surgical genius

Jan Mikulicz-Radecki, rok 1890
Jan Mikulicz-Radecki, rok 1890

Medical students and doctors would probably make the connection between Jan Mikulicz-Radecki and a surgical procedure or with a medical instrument they generally use in surgery, the so-called Mikulicz clamp. But not much is known about the man. His biography, however, reflects the complicated history of Central Europe in the second half of the 19th century.

Jan Anton von Mikulicz-Radecki was born in 1850 in Czernowitz, the capital of Bukovina, which at that time was part of the Austrian Empire. His father was a Pole from an old Polish noble family, his mother, Emilia Freiin von Damnitz, was born into Prussian nobility. Jan was the youngest of the couple’s five children (his father had another three children from a previous marriage). “He was small and delicate of stature, had a weak constitution, was taciturn, didn’t push himself to the front[1] – that is how a biographer described the man who was later to be a surgeon. It was thanks to Bukovina, the multicultural melting pot in which Poles, Russians, Moldovans, Jews, Germans and Romanians and others lived, that Mikulicz-Radecki learnt several languages as a child, including Polish, German Russian and Yiddish.

When Jan Anton turned eight, his father sent him to Prague with his mother and sisters so that the children could go to schools where the standard was significantly above that of the educational facilities in Czernowitz. After three years there, the family returned to Bukovina, but one year later in 1863 they set off again, this time to Vienna. As a day pupil in the Empire’s metropolis, Mikulicz-Radecki initially attended the Theresianum, an exclusive school founded by Empress Marie Therese to prepare noble young men for the civil service.[2] One year later, he moved to the Benedictine grammar school in Klagenfurt, where his sister had an engagement in the theatre. During this time, Jan, who played the church organ at mass, considered joining an order. His father, Andreas Mikulicz, was vehemently opposed.


[1]     Preface to the Polish version by Wojciech Noszczyk, What does an average doctor today know about Jan Mikulicz-Radecki?, [in:] Waldemar Kozuschek, Johann Mikulicz-Radecki 1850-1905. Mitbegründer der modernen Chirurgie, bilingual edition: Polish German, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, Wrocław 2005, p. 11.

[2]     https://www.theresianum.ac.at/ (retrieved on 10 March 2020).

Media library
  • Jan Mikulicz-Radecki

    Jan Mikulicz-Radecki, 1890
  • In the operating theatre at Warsaw University

    Jan von Mikulicz-Radecki in the operating theatre at Warsaw University, 1899.
  • At a bowling evening.

    Jan von Mikulicz-Radecki at a bowling evening of the Association for Scientific Medicine in Königsberg.
  • Jan von Mikulicz-Radecki in Königsberg

    Reprint from the book by Waldemar Kozuschek “Johann von Mikulicz-Radecki 1850-1905”.