Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (September 14, 1849 – February 27, 1936) was a Russian physiologist, psychologist, and physician. He was
awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for research pertaining to the digestive system. Pavlov contributed to many areas of physiology, neurology and psychology. Most of his work
involved research in temperament, conditioning and involuntary reflex actions.
The following has been adapted from the Nobel Prize.org website.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born on September 14, 1849 at Ryazan, where his father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov, was a village priest. He was educated first at the church school in Ryazan and then at the theological seminary there.
Inspired by the progressive ideas which D. I. Pisarev, the most eminent of the Russian literary critics of the 1860's and I. M. Sechenov, the father of Russian physiology, were spreading, Pavlov abandoned his religious career and decided
to devote his life to science. In 1870 he enrolled in the physics and mathematics faculty to take the course in natural science.
Pavlov became passionately absorbed with physiology, which in fact was to remain of such fundamental importance to him throughout his life. It was during this first course that he produced, in collaboration with another student, Afanasyev,
his first learned treatise, a work on the physiology of the pancreatic nerves. This work was widely acclaimed and he was awarded a gold medal for it.
In 1875 Pavlov completed his course with an outstanding record and received the degree of Candidate of Natural Sciences. However, impelled by his overwhelming interest in physiology, he decided to continue his studies and proceeded
to the Academy of Medical Surgery to take the third course there. He completed this in 1879 and was again awarded a gold medal. After a competitive examination, Pavlov won a fellowship at the Academy, and this together with his position as Director of
the Physiological Laboratory at the clinic of the famous Russian clinician, S. P. Botkin, enabled him to continue his research work.
In 1890 Pavlov was invited to organize and direct the Department of Physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine. Under his direction, which continued over a period of 45 years to the end of his life, this Institute became one
of the most important centres of physiological research.
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. Pavlov's research into the physiology of digestion led him logically to create a
science of conditioned reflexes. In his study of the reflex regulation of the activity of the digestive glands, Pavlov paid special attention to the phenomenon of "psychic secretion", which is caused by food stimuli at a distance from
the animal. Pavlov concluded that a reflex - though not a permanent but a temporary or conditioned one - was involved.
This discovery of the function of conditioned reflexes made it possible to study all psychic activity objectively, instead of resorting to subjective methods as had hitherto been necessary; it was now possible to investigate by experimental
means the most complex interrelations between an organism and its external environment.
In 1903, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, Pavlov read a paper on "The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals". In this paper the definition of conditioned and other reflexes
was given and it was shown that a conditioned reflex should be regarded as an elementary psychological phenomenon, which at the same time is a physiological one. It followed from this that the conditioned reflex was a clue to the mechanism of the most
highly developed forms of reaction in animals and humans to their environment and it made an objective study of their psychic activity possible.
Subsequently, in a systematic program of research, Pavlov transformed Sechenov's theoretical attempt to discover the reflex mechanisms of psychic activity into an experimentally proven theory of conditioned reflexes.
Experiments carried out by Pavlov and his pupils showed that conditioned reflexes originate in the cerebral cortex, which acts as the «prime distributor and organizer of all activity of the organism» and which is responsible
for the very delicate equilibrium of an animal with its environment. In 1905 it was established that any external agent could, by coinciding in time with an ordinary reflex, become the conditioned signal for the formation of a new conditioned reflex.
In connection with the discovery of this general postulate Pavlov proceeded to investigate "artificial conditioned reflexes".
Research in Pavlov's laboratories over a number of years revealed for the first time the basic laws governing the functioning of the cortex of the great hemispheres. Many physiologists were drawn to the problem of developing Pavlov's basic laws
governing the activity of the cerebrum. As a result of all this research there emerged an integrated Pavlovian theory on higher nervous activity.
Even in the early stages of his research Pavlov received world acclaim and recognition. In 1901 he was elected a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in 1904 he was awarded a Nobel Prize, and in 1907 he was elected
Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences; in 1912 he was given an honorary doctorate at Cambridge University and in the following years honorary membership of various scientific societies abroad. Finally, upon the recommendation of the Medical Academy
of Paris, he was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour (1915).
In 1881, Pavlov married Seraphima (Sara) Vasilievna Karchevskaya, a teacher, the daughter of a doctor in the Black Sea fleet. She first had a miscarriage, said to be due to her having to run after her very fast-walking husband. Subsequently
they had a son, Wirchik, who died very suddenly as a child; three sons, Vladimir, Victor and Vsevolod, one of whom was a well-known physicist and professor of physics at Leningrad in 1925, and a daughter, Vera. Dr. Pavlov died in Leningrad on February