Ivan Pavlov

For other people named Ivan Pavlov, see Ivan Pavlov (disambiguation).
Ivan Pavlov
Born (1849-09-26)26 September 1849
Ryazan, Russian Empire
Died 27 February 1936(1936-02-27) (aged 86)
Leningrad, Soviet Union
Residence Russian Empire, Soviet Union
Nationality Russian, Soviet
Fields Physiologist, physician
Institutions Imperial Military Medical Academy
Alma mater Saint Petersburg University
Doctoral students Pyotr Anokhin, Boris Babkin, Leon Orbeli
Known for Classical conditioning
Transmarginal inhibition
Behavior modification
Influences Karl Vogt[1]
Jacob Moleschott[1]
Influenced John B. Watson
B. F. Skinner
Notable awards

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (Russian: Ива́н Петро́вич Па́влов; IPA: [ɪˈvan pʲɪˈtrovʲɪtɕ ˈpavləf]; 26 September [O.S. 14 September] 1849  27 February 1936) was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning. From his childhood days Pavlov demonstrated intellectual curiosity along with an unusual energy which he referred to as "the instinct for research".[3] Inspired by the progressive ideas which D. I. Pisarev, the most eminent of the Russian literary critics of the 1860s, and I. M. Sechenov, the father of Russian physiology, were spreading, Pavlov abandoned his religious career and devoted his life to science. In 1870 he enrolled in the physics and mathematics department at the University of Saint Petersburg in order to study natural science.[2] Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1904,[3][4] becoming the first Russian Nobel laureate. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Pavlov as the 24th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.[5] Pavlov's principles of classical conditioning have been found to operate across a variety of experimental and clinical settings, including educational classrooms.[6]

Education and early life

The Pavlov Memorial Museum, Ryazan: Pavlov's former home, built in the early 19th century[7]

Ivan Pavlov, the eldest of eleven children,[8] was born in Ryazan, Russian Empire. His father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov (1823–1899), was a village priest.[9] His mother, Varvara Ivanovna Uspenskaya (1826–1890), was a devoted homemaker. As a child, Pavlov willingly participated in house duties such as doing the dishes and taking care of his siblings. He loved to garden, ride his bicycle, row, swim, and play gorodki; he devoted his summer vacations to these activities.[10] Although able to read by the age of 7, Pavlov was seriously injured when he fell from a high wall onto stone pavement;[11] he did not undergo formal schooling until he was 11 years old as a result of his injuries.[8]

Pavlov attended and graduated from the Ryazan church school before entering the local theological seminary. However, in 1870, Pavlov left the seminary without graduating to attend the university at St. Petersburg where he enrolled in the physics and math department and took natural science courses. In his fourth year, his first research project on the physiology of the nerves of the pancreas[12] won him a prestigious university award. 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 Imperial Academy of Medical Surgery. While at the Academy of Medical Surgery, Pavlov became an assistant to his former teacher, Tyson, but left the department when Tyson was replaced by another instructor.

After some time, Pavlov obtained a position as a laboratory assistant to Professor Ustimovich at the physiological department of the Veterinary Institute.[13] For two years, Pavlov investigated the circulatory system for his medical dissertation.[8] In 1878, Professor S.P. Botkin, a famous Russian clinician, invited the gifted young physiologist to work in the physiological laboratory as the clinic's chief. In 1879, Pavlov graduated from the Medical Military Academy with a gold medal award for his research work. After a competitive examination, Pavlov won a fellowship at the Academy for postgraduate work.[14] The fellowship and his position as Director of the Physiological Laboratory at the clinic of the famous Russian clinician, S. P. Botkin enabled Pavlov to continue his research work. In 1883, he presented his doctor's thesis on the subject of The centrifugal nerves of the heart and posited the idea of nervism and the basic principles on the trophic function of the nervous system. Additionally, his collaboration with the Botkin clinic produced evidence of a basic pattern in the regulation of reflexes in the activity of circulatory organs.

Ivan Pavlov


He was inspired to forsake his Orthodox Christian background and pursue a scientific career by D. I. Pisarev, a literary critique and natural science advocate of the time and I. M. Sechenov, a Russian physiologist, whom Pavlov described as 'The father of physiology'.[9]


After completing his doctorate, Pavlov went to Germany where he studied in Leipzig with Carl Ludwig and Eimear Kelly 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 Heidenhain or Pavlov pouch.[8] 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 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.[15] In 1891, Pavlov was invited to the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg to organize and direct the Department of Physiology.[16] Over a 45-year period, under his direction it became one of the most important centers of physiological research.[9] 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.[15] 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.[17] In 1904, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize "in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged".[4]

While at the Institute of Experimental Medicine he carried out his classical experiments on the digestive glands which is how he eventually won the Nobel prize mentioned above.[18] Pavlov investigated the gastric function of dogs, and later, children,[19] by externalizing a salivary gland so he could collect, measure, and analyze the saliva and what response it had to food under different conditions. He noticed that the dogs tended to salivate before food was actually delivered to their mouths, and set out to investigate this "psychic secretion", as he called it. Pavlov’s laboratory housed a full-scale kennel for the experimental animals. Pavlov was interested in observing their long-term physiological processes. This required keeping them alive and healthy in order to conduct chronic experiments, as he called them. These were experiments over time, designed to understand the normal functions of animals. This was a new kind of study, because previously experiments had been “acute,” meaning that the dog went through vivisection and was ultimately killed in the process.[17]

A 1921 article by S. Morgulis in the journal Science, came as a critique of Pavlov's work in that it addressed concerns about the environment in which these experiments had been performed. Based on a report from H. G. Wells, claiming that Pavlov grew potatoes and carrots in his lab, the article stated, "It is gratifying to be assured that Professor Pavlov is raising potatoes only as a pastime and still gives the best of his genius to scientific investigation".[20] Also in 1921, Pavlov began holding laboratory meetings known as the 'Wednesday meetings' where he spoke bluntly on many topics, including his views on psychology. These meetings lasted until he died in 1936.[17]

Pavlov in 1935, by Mikhail Nesterov.

Pavlov was highly regarded by the Soviet government, and he was able to continue his research until he reached a considerable age. He was praised by Lenin.[21] However, despite the praise from the Soviet Union government, the money that poured out to support his laboratory, and the honours he was given, Pavlov made no attempts to conceal the disapproval and contempt in which he held Soviet Communism.[22] For example, in 1923 he claimed that he would not sacrifice even the hind leg of a frog to the type of social experiment that the regime was conducting in Russia. Also, in 1927, he wrote to Stalin protesting at what was being done to Russian intellectuals and saying he was ashamed to be a Russian.[3] After the murder of Sergei Kirov in 1934, Pavlov wrote several letters to Molotov criticizing the mass persecutions which followed and asking for the reconsideration of cases pertaining to several people he knew personally.[3]

Conscious until his very last moment, Pavlov asked one of his students to sit beside his bed and to record the circumstances of his dying. He wanted to create unique evidence of subjective experiences of this terminal phase of life.[23] Pavlov died of double pneumonia at the age of 86. He was given a grandiose funeral, and his study and laboratory were preserved as a museum in his honour.[3]

Reflex system research

See also: Reflex

Pavlov contributed to many areas of physiology and neurological sciences. Most of his work involved research in temperament, conditioning and involuntary reflex actions. Pavlov performed and directed experiments on digestion, eventually publishing The Work of the Digestive Glands in 1897, after 12 years of research. His experiments earned him the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.[24] These experiments included surgically extracting portions of the digestive system from animals, severing nerve bundles to determine the effects, and implanting fistulas between digestive organs and an external pouch to examine the organ's contents. This research served as a base for broad research on the digestive system.

Further work on reflex actions involved involuntary reactions to stress and pain. Pavlov extended the definitions of the four temperament types under study at the time: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholic, updating the names to "the strong and impetuous type, the strong equilibrated and quiet type, the strong equilibrated and lively type, and the weak type." Pavlov and his researchers observed and began the study of transmarginal inhibition (TMI), the body's natural response of shutting down when exposed to overwhelming stress or pain by electric shock.[25] This research showed how all temperament types responded to the stimuli the same way, but different temperaments move through the responses at different times. He commented "that the most basic inherited difference. .. was how soon they reached this shutdown point and that the quick-to-shut-down have a fundamentally different type of nervous system."[26]

Pavlov on education

The basics of Pavlov's classical conditioning serve as a historical backdrop for current learning theories.[27] However, the Russian physiologist's initial interest in classical conditioning occurred almost by accident during one of his experiments on digestion in dogs.[28] Considering that Pavlov worked closely with animals throughout many of his experiments, his early contributions were primarily about animal learning. However, the fundamentals of classical conditioning have been examined across many different organisms, including humans.[28] The basic underlying principles of Pavlov's classical conditioning have extended to a variety of settings, such as classrooms and learning environments.

Classical conditioning focuses on using preceding conditions to alter behavioral reactions. The principles underlying classical conditioning have influenced preventative antecedent control strategies used in the classroom.[29] Classical conditioning set the groundwork for the present day behavior modification practices, such as antecedent control. Antecedent events and conditions are defined as those conditions occurring before the behavior.[30] Pavlov's early experiments used manipulation of events or stimuli preceding behavior (i.e., a tone) to produce salivation in dogs much like teachers manipulate instruction and learning environments to produce positive behaviors or decrease maladaptive behaviors. Although he did not refer to the tone as an antecedent, Pavlov was one of the first scientists to demonstrate the relationship between environmental stimuli and behavioral responses. Pavlov systematically presented and withdrew stimuli to determine the antecedents that were eliciting responses, which is similar to the ways in which educational professionals conduct functional behavior assessments.[31] Antecedent strategies are supported by empirical evidence to operate implicitly within classroom environments. Antecedent-based interventions are supported by research to be preventative, and to produce immediate reductions in problem behaviors.[29]


One of Pavlov's dogs, preserved at The Pavlov Museum, Ryazan, Russia

The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the "conditioned reflex" (or in his own words the conditional reflex) 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 that when a buzzer or metronome was sounded in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog would initially salivate when the food was presented. The dog would later come to associate the sound with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the presentation of that stimulus.[32] 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.[33] 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.[9]

As Pavlov's work became known in the West, particularly through the writings of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, 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.[34] The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of Pavlov's work for philosophy of mind.[35]

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. In 1994, Catania cast doubt on whether Pavlov ever actually used a bell in his experiments.[36] Littman tentatively attributed the popular imagery to Pavlov’s contemporaries Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev and John B. Watson. Roger K. Thomas, of the University of Georgia, however, claimed to have found "three additional references to Pavlov's use of a bell that strongly challenge Littman's argument".[37] In reply, Littman suggested that Catania's recollection, that Pavlov did not use a bell in research, was "convincing .. and correct".[38]

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".[39]

The Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences was founded by Pavlov in 1925 and named after him following his death.[40]

Awards and honours

Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904. He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1907[2] and was awarded the Royal Society's Copley Medal in 1914. He became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1907.[41] Pavlov's dog, the Pavlovian session and Pavlov's typology are named in his honour.

Personal life

Ivan Pavlov married Seraphima Vasilievna Karchevskaya on 1 May 1881, whom he had met in 1878 or 1879 when she went to St. Petersburg to study at the Pedagogical Institute. Seraphima, called Sara for short, was born in 1855. In her later years, she suffered from ill health and died in 1947. The first nine years of their marriage were marred by financial problems; Pavlov and his wife often had to stay with others in order to have a home, and for a time, the two lived apart so that they could find hospitality. Although their poverty caused despair, material welfare was a secondary consideration. Sara's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. When she conceived again, the couple took precautions, and she safely gave birth to their first child, a boy whom they named Mirchik; Sara became deeply depressed following Mirchik's sudden death in childhood. Ivan and Sara eventually had four more children: Vladimir, Victor, Vsevolod, and Vera.[9] Their youngest son, Vsevolod, died of pancreatic cancer in 1935, only one year before his father.[42]

See also


  1. 1 2 John Powell, Derek W. Blakeley, Tessa Powell (eds.), Biographical Dictionary of Literary Influences: The Nineteenth Century, 1800-1914, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, "Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936)."
  2. 1 2 3 Anrep, G. V. (1936). "Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. 1849-1936". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 2 (5): 1–0. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1936.0001. JSTOR 769124.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Cavendish, Richard. (2011). "Death of Ivan Pavlov". History Today. 61 (2): 9.
  4. 1 2 "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1904". nobelprize.org. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  5. Haggbloom, Steven J.; Warnick, Jason E.; Jones, Vinessa K.; Yarbrough, Gary L.; Russell, Tenea M.; Borecky, Chris M.; McGahhey, Reagan; et al. (2002). "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century". Review of General Psychology. 6 (2): 139–152. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139.
  6. Olson, M. H.; Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An Introduction to Theories of Learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 201–203.
  7. The memorial estate About the house
  8. 1 2 3 4 Sheehy, Noel; Chapman, Antony J.; Conroy, Wendy A., eds. (2002). "Ivan Petrovich Pavlov". Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. Routledge. ISBN 0415285615.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1904 Ivan Pavlov". Nobelmedia. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  10. Asratyan (1953), p. 8
  11. Asratyan (1953), p. 9
  12. Asratyan (1953), pp. 9–11
  13. Asratyan (1953), p. 12
  14. Asratyan (1953), p. 13
  15. 1 2 Asratyan (1953), pp. 17–18
  16. Windholz, George (1997). "Ivan P. Pavlov: An overview of his life and psychological work". American Psychologist. 52 (9): 941–946. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.52.9.941.
  17. 1 2 3 "Ivan Pavlov". Science in the Early Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia.
  18. Asratyan (1953), p. 18
  19. Reagan, Leslie A.; et al., eds. (2007). Medicine's moving pictures. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. p. 285. ISBN 1-58046-234-0.
  20. Morgulis, S. (1921). "Professor Pavlov". Science. 53 (1360): 74. Bibcode:1921Sci....53Q..74M. doi:10.1126/science.53.1360.74.
  21. Lenin, V.I. (24 January 1921). "Concerning The Conditions Ensuring The Research Work Of Academician I. P. Pavlov and his associates". Marxists.org.
  22. "Ivan Petrovich Pavlov – Opposition to Communism – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 February 1936. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  23. Chance, Paul (1988). Learning and Behaviour. Wadsworth Pub. Co. ISBN 0-534-08508-3. p. 48.
  24. "1904 Nobel prize laureates". Nobelprize.org. 10 December 1904. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  25. Mazlish, Bruce (1995), Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines, Yale University Press, pp. 122–123, ISBN 0-300-06512-4
  26. Rokhin, L, Pavlov, I and Popov, Y. (1963), Psychopathology and Psychiatry, Foreign Languages Publication House: Moscow.
  27. William Moore, J.; Manning, S. A.; Smith, W. I. (1978). Conditioning and Instrumental Learning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp. 52–61. ISBN 0070429022.
  28. 1 2 Tarpy, Roger M. (1975). Basic Principles of Learning. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company. pp. 15–17.
  29. 1 2 Kern, Lee; Clemens, Nathan H. (2007). "Antecedent strategies to promote appropriate classroom behavior". Psychology in the Schools. 44 (1): 65–75. doi:10.1002/pits.20206. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  30. Alberto, Paul A.; Troutman, Anne C. (2013). Applied Behavior Analysis for Teachers (Ninth ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
  31. Stichter, Janine P.; Randolph, Jena K.; Kay, Denise; Gage, Nicholas (2009). "The use of structural analysis to develop antcedent-based interventions for students with autism". Journal of Austim Development Disroder. 39: 883–896. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0693-8.
  32. Todes, Daniel Philip (2002). Pavlov's Physiology Factory. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 232 ff. ISBN 0-8018-6690-1.
  33. Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. Translated and Edited by G. V. Anrep. London: Oxford University Press. p. 142.
  34. Plaud, J. J.; Wolpe, J. (1997). "Pavlov's contributions to behavior therapy: The obvious and the not so obvious". American Psychologist. 52 (9): 966–972. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.52.9.966. PMID 9382243.
  35. Russell, Bertrand (1931) The Scientific Outlook, London: George Allen & Unwin.
  36. Catania, A. Charles (1994); Query: Did Pavlov's Research Ring a Bell?, Psycoloquy Newsletter, Tuesday, 7 June 1994
  37. Thomas, Roger K. (1994). "Pavlov's dogs "dripped Saliva at the Sound of a Bell"". Psycoloquy. 5 (80).
  38. Littman, Richard A. (1994). "Bekhterev and Watson Rang Pavlov's Bell". Psycoloquy. 5 (49).
  39. Eysenck, H. J. (1964). "Pavlov's Writings". BMJ. 2 (5401): 111. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5401.111-b.
  40. Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. infran.ru
  41. "Ivan Petrovich Pavlow (1849 - 1936)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  42. Babkin, B.P. (1949). Pavlov, A Biography. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 27–54. ISBN 1406743976.


  • Asratyan, E. A. (1953). I. P. Pavlov: His Life and Work. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. 

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