Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought

By Pat Duffy Hutcheon | Go to book overview

Ten
Ivan Pavlov and the Third Copernican Revolution

Study, son, 'tis science That teaches us more swiftly than experience, Our life being so brief.

-- Alexander Pushkin, Boris Godunov

A t the very time that Freud was boldly claiming the mantle of Copernicus and Darwin, a modest Russian researcher named Ivan Pavlov was quietly earning it. Pavlov had been born in St. Petersburg in 1849 -- seven years before Freud. He was the son of a priest in the poor country parish of Ryazan, the eldest of only five survivors of the eleven children to which his mother had given birth. Like Freud, he came from a humble, though far from lower-class, background.


A time of hope

Pavlov grew to manhood in what was probably the most liberal period of Russian history. He would have been twelve years old in 1861 when Tsar Alexander II passed legislation to free the serfs, and political and educational reform continued for a few years after that. But, as a result of the Polish Revolt and several attempts on his life, the Tsar began to retreat into conservatism. His reign was followed by those of Alexander III and Nicholas II, who pursued a ruthless Russification policy which involved harassment of the Poles and Finns and pogroms against the Jews. All this contributed to the emergence of the revolutionary movement of 1905, with its dreams of radical change. It was in this social and political context that the young scientist carried out his work.

The youthful Ivan had been extremely fortunate in his role models. His father was a priest with a love of learning and an instinct for research. His godfather (an abbot) taught him the nobility of work and the importance of uniting the labour of the head and hand. An admirable teacher at the Ecclesiastical

References for this chapter are on p. 185.

-172-

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