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Ivan Pavlov

On September 14, 1849, in a small village in Russia, a future scientist was born unto the town's priest (who was also his father). Ivan Pavlov initially followed in his father's footsteps, studying theology. After being inspired by the works of Charles Darwin, Pavlov sealed his fate as a scientist by enrolling in natural sciences courses at the University of Saint Petersburg.


Ivan Pavlov

Once he finished his doctorate, Pavlov worked at the Heidenhain laboratories in Germany. It was here that he studied digestion of dogs, and developed an exterior section of the stomach known as the Pavlov Pouch.

After returning from Germany, Pavlov was offered positions at the University of Saint Petersburg, Toms University, and the University of Warsaw, but declined all three. He then helped develop the Department of Physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine where he remained for 45 years.

As he lay dying, Pavlov kept his wits about him, and even had a student sit as his bedside to record his patterns of death. He had hoped to capture evidence of subjective existence when in a terminal stage. He died on February 27, 1936 of double pneumonia.


Contributions to Science

Pavlov was best known for his work in psychology, specifically his research on classical conditioning. Though he was not a psychologist, and he was reported to despise the subject, he played a major role in understanding behavioral science. His studies in conditioning have been used by other researchers to understand how humans learn, as well as how they react to what they've learned. John B. Watson, the American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism, has referred to the work of Pavlov in many of his own writings and studies.

Despite being nominated for three years, Pavlov never won the Nobel Laureate because his findings weren't related to a distinct discovery. Pavlov finally won the Nobel Prize in 1904, thanks to his experiments on the digestive glands. He used dogs to determine how their digestion was related to physiological processes and conditions.

He collected saliva from his experimental subjects, which were housed in his laboratory, making it seem more like a kennel then a research facility. During his experiments, he concluded that dogs excreted saliva prior to food actually being put in their mouths, leading him to take interest in this process, which he termed "psychic secretion".


His famous experiments of exposing the dogs to a variety of stimuli to study their psychic secretion, lead to the discovery of "conditional reflexes", which Pavlov attributed to the cerebral cortex. The study of these reflexes serves as a basis for modern behaviorism as well as making significant advances in psychology and physiology.

Because he became interested in the long-term study of his subjects (the dogs), Pavlov had to keep them healthy and alive, which was a groundbreaking type of study. In the past, animals used in laboratory settings were often killed in the process of experimentation.

Rumor Has It

that when he was a child, Pavlov's mother would ring the dinner bell and Pavlov would start salivating.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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