The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview

14
IVAN PAVLOV

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849–1936) valued discipline and order within his laboratory but
was notoriously absent-minded at home. He felt successful and happy at work and at home,
writing in his autobiography “I dreamed of finding happiness in intellectual work, in sci-
ence—and I found it. I wanted to have a kind person as a companion in life and I found this
companion in my wife Sara Vasilievna.” Initially enrolled at the Ryazan Ecclesiastical Semi-
nary, Pavlov was encouraged by the priests to read widely, which led him to works by
Charles Darwin (p. 188) and Ivan Sechenov, the Russian physiologist who wrote Reflexes of
the Brain. He transferred to the University of St. Petersburg to pursue a scientific career, con-
tinuing upon graduation in 1875 to the Military-Medical Academy, and received his med-
ical degree in 1883. Pavlov developed incredible surgical techniques and collaborated with
Heidenhain of Germany to perfect a method for isolating part of a dog's stomach, keeping
the nerve and blood supply intact and attaching an external fistula to collect samples, thus
allowing study of the various gastric acids during different phases of digestion. His own re-
search began in earnest in 1890, when he became a professor of pharmacology (he
switched to a chair of physiology in 1895). Pavlov was openly critical of the Bolsheviks, but
both the revolutionaries of October 1917 and the later Soviet government heaped honor
and privilege upon the internationally renowned scientist, providing generous support for
his professional activities and even extending double rations to his immediate family.


CONDITIONAL REFLEXES: AN INVESTIGATION OF THE
PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY OF THE CEREBRAL CORTEX

LECTURES ON THE WORK OF THE
CEREBRAL HEMISPHERES

The substantiation and the history of the fundamen-
tal methods employed in the investigation of the ac-
tivity of the cerebral hemispheres. The concept of
the reflex. The variety of reflexes. Signalling activity
as the most general physiological characteristic of
the cerebral hemispheres.

Gentlemen,

One cannot but be struck by a comparison of the following facts. First, the cerebral hemispheres, the higher part of the central nervous system, is a rather impressive organ. In structure it is exceedingly complex, comprising millions and millions (in man—even billions) of cells, i.e., centres or foci of nervous activity. These cells vary in size, shape and arrangement and are connected with each other by countless branches. Such structural complexity naturally suggests a very high degree of functional complexity. Consequently, it would seem that a boundless field of investigation is offered here for the physiologist. Secondly, take the dog, man's companion and friend since prehistoric times, in its various roles as hunter, sentinel, etc. We know that this complex behaviour of the dog, its higher nervous activity (since no one will dispute that this is higher nervous activity), is chiefly associated with the cerebral hemispheres. If we remove the cerebral hemispheres in the dog (Goltz and others), it becomes incapable of performing not only the

From Ivan Pavlov, “Lectures on the Work of the Cerebral Hemispheres.” In Experimental Psychology and Other Essays (pp.
171–187). New York: Philosophical Library, 1957. (Original work published 1926)

-178-

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