Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science
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Winner of the Pfizer Award from the History of Science Society
"Contrary to legend, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) never trained a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell."
So begins this definitive, deeply researched biography of Ivan Pavlov. Daniel P. Todes fundamentally reinterprets the Russian physiologist's famous research on conditional reflexes and weaves his life, values, and science into the tumultuous century of Russian history-particularly that of its intelligentsia-from the reign of tsar Nicholas I to Stalin's time.
Ivan Pavlov was born to a family of priests in provincial Riazan before the serfs were emancipated, and made his home and professional success in the booming capital of St. Petersburg in late imperial Russia. He suffered the cataclysmic destruction of his world during the Bolshevik seizure of power and civil war of 1917-21, rebuilt his life in his seventies as a "prosperous dissident" during the Leninist 1920s, and flourished professionally as never before in the 1930s industrialization, revolution, and terror of Stalin times.
Using a wide variety of previously unavailable archival materials, Todes tells a vivid story of that life and redefines Pavlov's legacy. Pavlov was not, in fact, a behaviorist who believed that psychology should address only external behaviors; rather, he sought to explain the emotional and intellectual life of animals and humans, "the torments of our consciousness." This iconic "objectivist" was actually a profoundly anthropomorphic thinker whose science was suffused with his own experiences, values, and subjective interpretations.
Todes's story of this powerful personality and extraordinary man is based upon interviews with surviving coworkers and family members (along with never-before-analyzed taped interviews from the 1960s and 1970s), examination of hundreds of scientific works by Pavlov and his coworkers, and close analysis of materials from some twenty-five archives. The materials range from the records of his student years at Riazan Seminary to the transcripts of the Communist Party cells in his labs, and from his scientific manuscripts and notebooks to his political speeches; they include revealing love letters to his future wife and correspondence with hundreds of scholars, artists, and Communist Party leaders; and memoirs by many coworkers, his daughter, his wife, and his lover.
The product of more than twenty years of research, this is the first scholarly biography of the physiologist to be published in any language.
science journal Herald of the Natural Sciences; new Russian translations of the works of “vulgar materialists” Carl Vogt, Jacob Moleschott, and Ludwig Büchner; lectures by physiologist Claude Bernard; and Lewes’s controversial Physiology of the Common Life.20 Many of these works, of course, were unavailable at the seminary library, where, curricular reform notwithstanding, authorities were denying its newly hired specialists permission to acquaint students with even much tamer fare. Petr Rubin,
debts. PR EFAC E When in 1989 I first contemplated this project, I was surprised to discover that there existed neither a scholarly biography of Pavlov nor an even remotely satisfactory account of his Nobel Prize–winning research on digestion or his famous studies of conditional reflexes. Over the next few years, I came to understand the reasons. For one thing, he was a Soviet icon—so Russian scholars needed to toe a tight line, and foreign historians could gain only limited access to
Tsion taught Pavlov to focus upon the investigation of organs, for here the physiologist grappled with the vital phenomena that distinguished living organisms and so constituted the special subject of his discipline. The “purely physical” world served as a source of heuristically useful models—for example, the model of heart as pump—but the physiologist always bore in mind their inevitable limitations. Also like Bernard, Tsion taught that the scientist must embrace determinism while avoiding
students. She made friends easily and, like Ivan, traveled in a pack. She attracted at least two serious suitors, rejected a marriage proposal from a wealthy young man, and was briefly engaged.5 Yet her relative cultural conservatism set her apart. Offended by the young men’s “very crude attitudes toward us young girls,” she was puzzled when one medical student referred to them as “common property” and repelled when a sophisticate explained what that meant. In the name of women’s equality, she
Pavlovs’ living room wall. One, a gift from its creator, Dubovskoi, was a Sillamiagi scene; the other, Pavlov’s first art purchase, was Nikolai Yaroshenko’s portrait of Vladimir. Having met the oldest Pavlov son as a five- or six-year-old, The Pavlovs of St. Petersburg 139 Yaroshenko had been enchanted by his looks. When the artist died in 1898, Pavlov bought the portrait from his widow for 500 rubles. Serafima splurged on fine frames for each. 23 A prospering family, domestic comfort,