Researched and written by: Stephen DiCarlo
|I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original
| Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born on September
14, 1849, in the town of Ryazan where his father was a village priest.
His father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov was a much-respected dean and preacher
in one of the best parishes in Ryazan. Pavlov inherited many of his
fatherís characteristics such as a love for learning. He enjoyed
reading literature as well as scientific writing. Pavlov would read
every book twice to get the most out of it. He entered the theological
seminary intending to prepare for the priesthood, but once he had read
Darwinís theory, Pavlov changed his mind.
Pavlov graduated from the Medico-Chirurgical
Academy on December 19, 1879. Impelled by his overwhelming interest
in physiology, he decided to continue his studies. Pavlov was involved
with important experiments on the augmentor nerves of the heart.
He presented this work as his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Medicine,
which he received on May 23, 1883. Pavlov was made a lecturer in
physiology at the Military-Medical Academy on April 24, 1884, and it was
about eight months later that he left for two years study abroad (Babkin,
On May 1, 1881, about a year after graduating
from the Military-Medical Academy, Pavlov married Seraphima Vasilievna
Karchevskaya, whose family lived in Rostov-on-the-don. She was a
true friend and companion to Pavlov and understood and appreciated him.
Pavlov, being so little aware of everyday problems, in many respects depended
on her completely. She was a very religious woman and in the beginning
of their marriage they made a pact that she would attend to all his needs
and take care of him as long as he did not smoke, drink, and only socialized
on the weekends. She first had a miscarriage, said to be due to her
having to run after her very fast-walking husband. Then they had
a son, Wirchik, who died very suddenly as a child. After that tragedy,
they had three sons, Viladimir, Victor and Vsevolod. The first ten
years of their marriage were hard because they had many financial difficulties.
It was not until Pavlov received the chair of pharmacology in the Military-Medical
Academy in 1890 and in the following year the directorship of the Department
of Physiology in the Institute of Experimental Medicine that life became
easier for them (Schultz & Schultz, 2000).
It was at the Institute of Experimental Medicine
in the years 1891-1900 that Pavlov did the bulk of his research on the
physiology of digestion. Pavlovís research into the physiology of
digestion lead him to create a science of conditioned reflexes. His discoveries
opened a new era; making it possible to study all psychic activity objectively,
instead of resorting to subjective methods. It was now possible to
investigate by experimental means the most complex interrelations between
an organism and its external environment. On the laws governing the
activity of living organisms, Pavlov deduced three principles for the theory
of reflexes; the principle of determinism, the principle of analysis and
synthesis, and the principle of structure. The development of these
principles by Pavlov and his school helped greatly towards the building-up
of a scientific theory of medicine and towards the discovery of laws governing
the functioning of the organism as a whole. Pavlovís brilliant research
won him worldwide recognition. Pavlov was awarded the Noble Prize for the
physiology of digestion in December 1904. He received the award in
Stockholm which was presented to him by the king of Sweden (Babkin, 1949).
Psychic secretion was Pavlovís term for the
gastric juices that pour out in response to stimulation of the mouth by
food. To reach the conditioned reflex, concentration lies in stimuli
that act upon the animal from a distance (for example the sight or sound
of food). As Pavlov was well aware, this crosses physiology and psychology.
Pavlov hesitated for a long time before he devoted his full attention to
conditioned reflexes, which he first noticed during his work on the digestive
Pavlov sought to demonstrate that reflexes
of the brain could be associated with environmental stimuli, and as a consequence
these stimuli themselves became capable of eliciting the same reflexes.
A familiar example is of dogs salivating upon hearing a bell that they
have associated with food. In essence, the unconditioned stimulus
(food; a stimulus that the animal responds to without previous experience)
has been associated with a conditioned stimulus (the bell; a stimulus that
initially has no inherent significance for the animal), and the animal
now responds to the bell by salivating; that is, as if it were food.
Pavlovís research on the conditioned reflex became the model for a great
deal of research in American psychology, which regarded learning and conditioning
as the major concerns. This model was extended to all subdisciplines
within psychology (Babkin, 1949).
Studying the conditioned reflexes Pavlov came
to the necessity to isolate completely the experimental dog from any exterior
influences during the experiment. For this purpose he made a project
of very special construction named the Tower of Silence. It had eight
experimental soundproof cameras, separated by spiral staircases and passages
with noiseless covering. The walls and window glasses were very thick.
Within the camera there is another camera with a double door. During
the experiment the dog was placed into the inside camera. Vibration,
noise, temperature extremes, odors, and drafts were eliminated. Pavlov
wanted nothing to influence the experimental animals except the conditioning
stimuli to which he exposed them (Schultz & Schultz, 2000).
Pavlov taught a great school of physiologists,
which produced many distinguished pupils. He left the richest scientific
legacy; a brilliant group of pupils, who would continue developing the
ideas of their master, and a host of followers all over the world. Ivan
Pavlovís classic experiments with conditioned reflexes established a vital
link between physiology and psychology, between brain and mind. This
account of his life and works follows the development of Pavlovís theories
of brain function, behavior, and personality based on the concept of conditioning.
Ivan Pavlov died in Leningrad on February 27, 1936.
|Babkin, B., ďPavlov: A Biography,Ē The University of Chicago Press,
Schultz, D. P., Schultz, S. E., "The History of Modern Psychology,"
Harcourt College Publishers, 2000.