Can You Identify These Famous Fictional Physicians?

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 06, 2018

The Poetic Physician 

Image from AF Archive/Alamy

Dr Yuri Zhivago is the main character in the eponymous novel Dr Zhivago, written by Boris Pasternak (1890-1931). The reader first meets Yuri Zhivago as a young child attending his mother's funeral. Because his father abandoned him and his mother long before her death, Yuri comes under the care of his beloved uncle.

As a young man of nearly 20, Zhivago becomes a medical student. He is later drafted by the Russian army and serves as a physician during World War I. During his military service, he is wounded in a battle that occurs around the same time as the beginning of the Russian Revolution.

Several aspects of the novel parallel Pasternak's life. For example, like Pasternak, Dr Zhivago is a poet; in fact, several of Pasternak's poems appear in the novel. Some of the characters in the novel are also based on people in Pasternak's life; most notably, the character of Yuri's lover Lara resembles Olga Ivinskaya, one of Pasternak's admirers.[2]

Although the Russian authorities prohibited the publication of Dr Zhivago in his homeland, the manuscript found its way to Italy, where it was first published in 1957. In 1958, Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although he initially accepted the award, Soviet authorities later forced him to decline it. However, in 1989, one of Pasternak's sons accepted the prize on his father's behalf.[3]

The 1965 movie film adaptation of the novel, directed by David Lean and starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, won five Oscar awards.

Doctor Finlay is a British television series based on A.J. Cronin's stories about the fictional medical hero. Doc Daneeka appears in Catch-22, a satirical novel set in World War II written by Joseph Heller. Dr Fu Manchu is a fictional evil genius and mad scientist who appears in numerous comic strips and films, always depicted sporting his eponymous moustache.


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