On September 22, 1762 Catherine the Great was crowned empress of all Russia. During her reign as empress, she is remembered as being one of the greatest reformers of Russian history. Her rule was one of the most prosperous periods of the Russian Empire. Catherine was industrious, highly intelligent and strong willed. Her work had an exceptionally constructive effect on Russia and her people. She strove to enlighten Russia by expanding Russian rule, starting a functional school board, funding hospitals and codifying the laws.
Catherine was born on April 21, 1729 in Strettin (now Szczecin), Poland. At the age of fifteen, Catherine went to Russia to become the wife of Peter Feodorovich. When Peter died Catherine became absolute ruler and empress of the largest European empire. Unlike Peter, she did not forcibly conscript society into the service of the state, but rather encouraged individual ingenuity in pursuit of self interest, "I have preferred humanity and indulgence toward human nature- (Anthony 326) To learn the needs of the country, in 1767 Catherine gathered an assembly. It was entitled the Law Code Commission, made up of elected nobility, townsfolk and state peasants. Drafts were written by those electives, and though the commission was dismissed in 1768, the materials were still utilized. In 1783 Catherine the Great published, "Description of the Russian Empire and its International Administration and Legal Enactments." This edict was the closest thing that Russia had to a law code (Hosking 100). This document condemned capital punishment and torture, it argued for crime prevention in general. Catherine adopted the task of laying the foundation for a civilized Russian society. Her first contribution toward forming an enlightened nation was to create a system of hospitals.
Catherine funded the Town Hospital at St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg House for Lunatics, and the Foundling Hospital; as well, she popularized vaccinations.