Ivan Pavlov Biography


Birthday: September 26, 1849 (Libra)

Born In: Ryazan, Russia

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist famous for his experiments on the digestive system of dogs which led him to discover conditional reflexes that originate in the cerebral cortex of the brain. His research on the physiology of digestion led to the development of the experimental model of learning, popularly known as Classical Conditioning. His studies primarily revolved around the influence of stimuli on inducing salivation in dogs even before food was provided to them. Born into a large family, he grew up in poverty. But the hardships of his childhood could not squelch the inherent curiosity of the boy. A brilliant child he displayed a natural instinct for research. The son of a village priest, his first professional choice was to pursue a career in theology. However, he abandoned this idea and decided to devote his life to science after reading ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin. His decision to enter the world of scientific research was also influenced by the progressive ideas of the literary critic D.I.Pisarev and I. M. Sechenov, the father of Russian physiology. Eventually, Pavlov’s scientific work earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904. He also mentored several brilliant students who helped carry forward his legacy of scientific research even after he left the world.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

Died At Age: 86


Spouse/Ex-: Seraphima Vasilievna Karchevskaya (m. 1881)

father: Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov

mother: Varvara Ivanovna Uspenskaya

children: Mirchik Pavlov, Vera Pavlov, Vsevolod Pavlov VladimirPavlov

Born Country: Russia

Atheists Physicians

Died on: February 27, 1936

place of death: Saint Petersburg, Russia

discoveries/inventions: Discovered 'nervism' And 'physiology Of Digestion'

More Facts

education: Ryazan Church School, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg State University

awards: 1904 - Nobel laureate for his work on the physiology of digestion

Childhood & Early Life
Ivan Pavlov was born to Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov, a village priest and Varvara Ivanovna, a homemaker. He was the eldest of 11 siblings and loved to do household chores and take care of his younger brothers and sisters.
An active child, he loved to garden, cycle, swim and row. He also liked to read. However, a serious injury kept him away from school till he was about 11 years old.
He attended the Ryazan Ecclesiastical High School and later went to the Ryazan Ecclesiastical Seminary. As a youngster, he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in theology.
During this time he was exposed to the works of Charles Darwin and Ivan Sechenov which influenced him to study natural sciences. Thus, he quit the seminary in 1870.
He enrolled at the University of St. Petersburg to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences. There he met Professor Cyon who taught physiology and Ivan was influenced by him to become a physiologist.
He proved to be an exceptional student and won prestigious university awards. He completed his course in 1875 and received the degree of Candidate of Natural Sciences.
He went to the Academy of Medical Surgery to further his education in physiology.
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He became a laboratory assistant to Professor Ustimovich at the physiological department of the Veterinary Institute in 1876 and held this position till 1878.
He completed the course he was studying at the Academy of Medical Surgery in 1879 and was awarded a gold medal.
He won a fellowship to pursue postgraduate work at the Medical Military Academy in 1880. He discovered the dynamic nerves of the heart and presented his doctor’s thesis on ‘The Centrifugal nerves of the heart’ and gave the concept of nervism.
He became a lecturer in physiology at the Military Medical Academy in 1884 and went to Germany for a period of two years to study with Carl Ludwig in the Heidenhain laboratories where he began to study the digestive system of dogs.
He was made the Professor of Pharmacology at the Military Medical Academy in 1890 and was appointed as the head of the physiology department in 1895. He held this position till 1925.
In 1891, he joined the Institute of Experimental Medicine where he helped to organize and direct the Department of Physiology for a period of 45 years. Under his guidance, it became one of the most important centers of physiological research.
During this time, he conducted several experiments on the physiology of digestion. He developed an experimental method for observing the functions of various organs under relatively normal conditions. This discovery ushered in a new era in experimental physiology.
Through his experiments on dogs the showed that it was primarily the nervous system which regulated the digestive processes. He published his findings under the title ‘Lectures on the functions of the principal digestive glands’ in 1897.
He was made a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1901. Starting from 1901, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize four times before finally being awarded it in 1904.
After serving as a professor in the Military Medical Academy for several years, he resigned in 1924. He continued contributing towards scientific research by mentoring bright pupils in the field of physiology till his death.
Major Works
His biggest contribution towards science is his research on the physiology of digestive system which led to the creation of the Classical Conditioning model of experimentation. He contributed immensely to the field of neurological sciences by discovering conditioning and involuntary reflex actions.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 "in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged".
He was awarded the Order of the legion of Honour by the Medical Academy of Paris in 1915.
Personal Life & Legacy
He had a difficult personal life in spite of all his professional successes. He married Seraphima Vasilievna in 1881. The couple suffered from financial problems during the early years of their marriage and also had to bear the loss of a child. They eventually had four surviving children.
Pavlov died of double pneumonia in 1936 at the age of 86.

See the events in life of Ivan Pavlov in Chronological Order

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