Ivan Pavlov : biography

September 14, 1849 - February 27, 1936

Sara’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. When Sara became pregnant for the second time, however, the couple took precautions and the baby arrived safely. Their first child, a son, was named Mirchik. Sara adored Mirchik and became very depressed after he died very suddenly while still a child. Sara and Mirchik were staying in a country home when he died, most likely as a result of some children’s summer disease. Ivan and Sara eventually had three more children: Vsevolod, Vladimir, and Vera. Their youngest son, Vsevolod, died of pancreatic cancer in 1935, only one year before Pavlov’s own death.


The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the "conditioned reflex" (or in his own words the conditional reflex: the translation of условный рефлекс into English is debatable) he developed jointly with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901. He had come to learn this concept of conditioned reflex when examining the rates of salivations among dogs. Pavlov had learned then when a bell was rung in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog will initially salivate when the food is presented. The dog will later come to associate the ringing of the bell with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the ringing of the bell.

Tolochinov, whose own term for the phenomenon had been "reflex at a distance", communicated the results at the Congress of Natural Sciences in Helsinki in 1903. Later the same year Pavlov more fully explained the findings, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, where he read a paper titled The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals.

As Pavlov's work became known in the West, particularly through the writings of John B. Watson, the idea of "conditioning" as an automatic form of learning became a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology, and the general approach to psychology that underlay it, behaviorism. Pavlov's work with classical conditioning was of huge influence to how humans perceive themselves, their behavior and learning processes and his studies of classical conditioning continue to be central to modern behavior therapy. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of Pavlov's work for philosophy of mind.Russell, Bertrand (1931), The Scientific Outlook, London: George Allen & Unwin.

Pavlov's research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, Brave New World, and also to a large degree in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings record the use of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to the ring of a bell. CataniaCatania, A. Charles (1994); Query: Did Pavlov's Research Ring a Bell?, PSYCOLOQUY Newsletter, Tuesday, June 7, 1994 cast doubt on whether Pavlov ever actually used a bell in his famous experiments. Littman tentatively attributed the popular imagery to Pavlov’s contemporaries Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev and John B. Watson, until Thomas found several references that unambiguously stated Pavlov did, indeed, use a bell.

It is less widely known that Pavlov's experiments on the conditional reflex extended to children, some of whom underwent surgical procedures, similar to those performed on the dogs, for the collection of saliva.

In 1964 the eminent psychologist H. J. Eysenck reviewed Pavlov's "Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes" for the British Medical Journal: Volume I - "Twenty-five Years of Objective Study of the Higher Nervous Activity of Animals", Volume II - "Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry".


After completing his doctorate, Pavlov went to Germany where he studied in Leipzig with Carl Ludwig in the Heidenhain laboratories in Breslau. He remained there from 1884 to 1886. Heidenhain was studying digestion in dogs, using an exteriorized section of the stomach. However, Pavlov perfected the technique by overcoming the problem of maintaining the external nerve supply. The exteriorized section became known as the Heidenhai or Pavlov pouch. After two years (1884–1886), Pavlov returned from Germany to look for a new position. His application for the chair of physiology at the University of Saint Petersburg was rejected. Eventually, Pavlov was given the chair of pharmacology at the Tomsk University and then at the University of Warsaw. However, he went to neither place. In 1890, he was appointed the role of professor of Pharmacology at the Military Medical Academy and occupied the position for 5 years.Asratyan, pp. 17–18 Pavlov was invited to the in 1891 to organize and direct the Department of Physiology. Over a 45 year period, under his direction it became one of the most important centers of physiological research. While Pavlov directed the Department of Physiology at the Institute, he also transferred to the chair of physiology at the Medical Military Academy. This change in positions at the Academy occurred in 1895. He headed the physiology department at the Academy continuously for three decades. Also, starting in 1901, Pavlov was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for four successive years. However, he did not win because his nominations were not specific to any discovery and were based on a variety of laboratory findings. In 1904, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel laureate "in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged".. nobelprize.org

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine