Zalman Gusinskii was born in 1916 in Vitebsk, Belorussia. In 1939, he graduated from the Navy Medical Academy in Leningrad and was assigned to the Northern Fleet. There the 22-year old Gusinskii served as a flagship doctor at a Red Navy Northern Fleet submarine base near Murmansk, on the shore of the Barents Sea. At the base Zalman Gusinskii engaged in research on the air in submarines, specifically how the proportion of oxygen could be maintained at a sufficiently high level while keeping the level of carbon dioxide low.
At the beginning of the Soviet-German war in June 1941 Gusinskii was on board a submarine engaged in a training mission. Despite the fact that his profession as a military surgeon should have entailed his remaining on base, more than once during the war Gusinskii took part in submarine missions in order to test in action techniques that he had invented. He did so to the chagrin of the base command, which was not eager to do without his services as a surgeon. In addition, Gusinskii mastered several other submarine specialties, specifically those of signalman and radioman. He did this so that he would be able to replace other sailors if necessary. Thus, when he was not caring for the health of the crew, he served as a rank-and-file signalman.
In May 1942, Gusinskii took part in a patrol of the submarine M-172 under the command of his close friend Captain Izrail Fisanovich. As usual, the doctor, had with him his research equipment. The submarine torpedoed and succeeded in sinking an enemy transport ship in the Barents Sea, but it was detected. The Germans began to drop depth bombs on the M-172, one of which damaged the submarine's fuel tank. Together with a sailor, Gusinskii, repaired the tank. His equipment for regenerating the submarine's air supply enabled the crew to survive a ten-hour stay under water.
Zalman Gusinskii finished the war with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the medical service. He was awarded three orders: those of Patriotic War, 2nd and 1st class, and the Order of the Red Star. The text of the citation for the latter award, in May 1945, mentioned not only that he had repaired the fuel tank of the M-172 three years earlier, but also that in the course of the war he had given medical care to 6,000 military personnel.
In 1943, an article on Gusinskii appeared in the Soviet Yiddish newspaper Eynikayt.
After the war, Gusinskii continued his research on regenerating air in submarines. He died in 1986.