In memory of Prof. Dr. med. Vassil A. Vassilev (1928–2020) Honorary member of the Anatomische Gesellschaft
Ivan V. Vassilev, Ekaterina Vassileva Marcheva, Doychin N. Angelov
Professor Vassil Assenov Vassilev was a man of decency and humanity. In the Anatomische Gesellschaft he was known as a competent and reliable colleague and friend. His conviviality brought many people together and left lasting traces. His professional knowledge as well as his distinctive personality enabled him to create a network for the purpose of continuous development of anatomical research and teaching in Bulgaria. After more than 40 years of successful work, he died at the age of 92, surrounded by his large family in Sofia on August 16, 2020. Professor Vassilev left behind two children, three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, relatives and numerous mourning friends, colleagues, co-workers and students.
Vassil Assenov Vassilev was born in Sofia on August 15, 1928, the first son of an intellectual family (his father was the mayor of a Sofia district and his mother - a music teacher). He attended the 5th high school in Sofia, which he graduated from in 1946. In 1946 he began to study human medicine at the Medical Faculty in Sofia. Vassil A. Vassilev finished his studies in 1953 with a doctorate. During his studies his great interest in anatomy was awakened, where he worked regularly as a demonstrator (voluntary student assistant) at the Institute of Anatomy under the direction of Professor Dr. Dimitar Kadanoff from the 5th semester onwards. So it happened that immediately after his doctorate in 1953 he was employed as a regular assistant at the Department of Anatomy at the Medical University of Sofia. Five years later (1958) he received the specialist certification for “Human Anatomy”. His fondness for connective and supporting tissues, i.e. biomechanics, was acquired in his synchronous clinical activity at the Institute of Orthopedics and Traumatology in Sofia in 1955-58; he received the specialist recognition for Orthopedics and Traumatology in 1959. It was not until 1974 that he received the certificate of specialist in histology and embryology. After being awarded the Venia legendi for the subject Human Anatomy in 1958, he received the habilitation as a lecturer in anatomy in 1967. The title of his habilitation thesis was “Anatomical peculiarities and alterations of the cervical spine during aging”. In 1977 Vassil A. Vassilev was appointed Full Professor of Anatomy and Histology at the Medical University of Sofia with the inaugural lecture “Ultrastructure and Histochemistry of the Synovial Membrane in Norm, Development and Experiment”.
The first big steps in science were taken by Vassil A. Vassilev in the Medical Faculty of Sofia in the early 1960s with research on the development and age changes of the cervical spine and intervertebral discs, as well as on the biomechanical properties of the lumbar spine. This was followed (1971) by almost one year of further training and specialization in electron microscopy and histochemistry at the Anatomical Institute Würzburg (Director Prof. Dr. T.-H. Schiebler), where he maintained intensive relations with the Anatomical Society and his colleagues until his death. The working areas of Prof. Vassil A. Vassilev were numerous. They included the following anatomical structural complexes.
Descriptive macroscopic anatomy: varieties of nerves and blood vessels: A. ischiadica, A. dorsalis pedis, A. poplitea, N. hypoglossus, Pl. brachialis, Pl. lumbalis, Pl. sacralis and their branches.
Spine: development and age changes of the cervical spine, ultrastructure and age changes of the intervertebral discs, biomechanical properties of the lumbar spine.
Joint structures: synovial membrane, articular cartilage, tendon sheaths, joint menisci, cruciate ligaments - electron microscopy, histochemistry, experimental effects.
Connective tissue structures in skeletal muscles: endomysium, muscle-tendon connection - electron microscopy, histochemistry, imunohistochemistry, experimental effects
Serious caves: Pleura, peritoneal electron microscopy, experimental effects.
Cranial meninges: Dura mater, arachnoidea, pia mater - electron microscopy, histochemistry, experimental effects.
Neuromorphology: receptors in the auditory tuba, skeletal muscles and skin grafts - silver impregnation, experimental effects
The recognition of his work followed promptly. Vassil A. Vassilev was elected for a member of the board of the Anatomical Society from 1978 to 1982. As President he organized the largest (then in Bulgaria) international congress of the Anatomische Gesellschaft in Varna in 1981. Guest lectures followed at the universities of Würzburg, Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Hamburg from 1988 to 2004. In 1989 he worked as visiting professor at the Anatomical Institute of the Free University of Berlin (Director Prof. H.-J. Merker).
In 1991 Vassil A. Vassilev became the first democratically elected Rector of the Medical University Sofia, where he initiated and implemented the necessary reforms of the university in one year. In this year he was also elected Director of the Department of Anatomy and Histology, which lasted till 2005. In 1993 he was elected General Secretary of the Union of Bulgarian Medical Societies and in the same year he was elected President of the Bulgarian Anatomical Society (until 2005).
In 1994, upon his own request, he retired and entered the status of an Emeritus. Still he kept a close connection to his love, the human anatomy. He continued to maintain close relations and activities with the Anatomical Society: he worked as a visiting professor at the Institute of Anatomy of the Medical University of Lübeck in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 (Director Prof. Dr. med. W. Kühnel). In 1996 Vassil A. Vassilev was appointed member of the Council for Education and Science at the Office of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria in 1996. In 2005 he was elected Honorary President of the Bulgarian Anatomical Society.
Vassil A. Vassilev was a vivid, friendly and humorous person, who always had an open ear for the ideas and problems of his successors. He was always a reliable colleague, brilliant mentor and fatherly friend. His humanity earned him the sincere admiration of his students, colleagues, co-workers and friends during his lifetime.
We mourn and miss an outstanding scientist and wonderful person.
Vassil A. Vassilev will be remembered as an excellent professionalist and a man of honor and dignity.