Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine

Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine

Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine

Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine

Synopsis

Hailed as the "Prince of World Physiology," Ivan Pavlov continues to influence scientists today. His pioneering research on digestion, the brain, and behavior still provides important insights into the minds of animals--including humans--and is an inspiring example of imaginative experimentaltechnique. Pavlov graduated from the theological seminary in his native Ryazan, Russia, in 1869 but almost immediately switched to medicine and enrolled at St. Petersburg University. He became interested in the physiology of circulation and digestion, which led him to the study of conditional andunconditional reflexes. He conducted thousands of experiments with dogs, developing a way to use a dogs salivary glands as a window through which to observe the workings of its brain. Pavlov lived through the Russian Revolution and the civil war that followed it. Lenin himself recognized his genius and provided financial backing for his research; the new Soviet government built a research complex dedicated exclusively to his experiments. Pavlov was honored for his contributionsto science with the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1904. Oxford Portraits in Science is an ongoing series of scientific biographies for young adults. Written by top scholars and writers, each biography examines the personality of its subject as well as the thought process leading to his or her discoveries. These illustrated biographies combine accessibletechnical information with compelling personal stories to portray the scientists whose work has shaped our understanding of the natural world.

Excerpt

When he was 80 years old, Ivan Pavlov plucked an old book off the library shelf, opened it immediately to page 230, and displayed it sentimentally to a friend. The book was George Lewes's The Physiology of Common Life, and the page showed a diagram of an animal's internal organs. [When in my very young days I read this book in a Russian translation,] Pavlov recalled, [I was greatly intrigued by this picture. I asked myself: How does such a complicated system work?]

]How does such a complicated system work?] That was the question that Ivan Pavlov asked about animals, including humans, throughout his life. How does the heart work, how does the digestive system work, and, finally, how does the brain work? For Pavlov, animals were wonderful and infinitely complex machines that somehow worked precisely as they must in order to survive. The heart surpassed any artificial machine in its ability to pump blood (even regulating its own speed and force) for decades without resting, the stomach adjusted to pour just the right combination of gastric juices on any meal so it could be efficiently digested, and the brain somehow turned the sight of a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.