Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov Biography (1849-1936)


Born on September 14, 1849, in Ryazan, Russia, Pavlov was the son of a village priest. He planned to follow family tradition by becoming a priest himself.While at a theological seminary, however, Pavlov read Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species and found he really wanted a career in science instead. Soon afterward, in 1870, Pavlov transferred from the seminary to St. Petersburg University. There his professors included two renowned Russian chemists, Dmitri Mendeleev and Alexander Butlerov (1828-1886). Pavlov studied both chemistry and physiology. He obtained a medical degree from St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy in 1879, and a Ph.D. in 1883.

For the next few years, Pavlov studied cardiovascular and gastrointestinal physiology in Germany, then returned to the Medical Academy, where he was appointed Professor of Physiology and also conducted most of his research investigations. Pavlov's first major studies centered around the physiology of digestion. He was particularly interested in working out the nervous mechanism thatcontrolled the secretion of the digestive tract's various glands.

In 1889, Pavlov designed one of his most important animal experiments: aftersevering a dog's gullet, he pulled the upper end out through an opening in the animal's neck. From then on, while the dog could be fed, his food would drop out through the open gullet rather than reach his stomach. Nevertheless, asPavlov pointed out, after each feeding, the animal's gastric juices would flow, suggesting that nerves in his mouth must have been stimulated. These nerves must have then sent a message to the brain which, by way of other nerves,must have then stimulated the stomach's digestive glands, causing them secrete the juices. Pavlov performed a number of other experiments that not only helped demonstrate how digestion worked in a living animal, but also helped establish the importance of the autonomic nervous system in controlling the digestive process. For his work, Pavlov received the 1904 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Ironically, Pavlov then went on to design the series of animal experiments for which he is most famous: the "salivating dog" studies. In these studies, Pavlov confined a laboratory dog in a room that was kept soundproof in order toeliminate distracting noises. The dog was held in place by a loose harness,was fed by an automatic apparatus that was operated from outside the room, and had a small measuring tube attached to his cheek to collect the flow of saliva from his parotid gland. The dog's saliva was measured under varying situations and, before long, Pavlov was able to report that the dog's salivation began, as expected, as soon as he saw his food (a natural and unconditioned reflex). However, if a neutral sound, such as a bell, always accompanied the offering of his food, the dog began to salivate as soon as he heard the bell--even if the food did not immediately appear. Pavlov termed this secondreaction a conditioned reflex--a reaction that was not really instinctive buthad been learned through a sequence of associations.

Pavlov's continuing investigation of the conditioned reflex--although it tookplace in a laboratory and was conducted on animals--clearly had implicationsfor human learning behavior as well. Psychiatrists and psychologists aroundthe world began incorporating the concept into a number of different doctrines, particularly those relating to behavioral psychology. Pavlov continued hisown studies, even after the Communist Revolution and, although he himself was an outspoken anti-Communist, he remained one of Russia's most highly treasured scientists until his death in Leningrad on February 27, 1936.

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