In this book, Daniel P. Todes provides a concise introduction to the life and science of the great Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). Todes weaves together Pavlov's life, values, context, and science by focusing on his quest to understand the psyche and the "torments of our consciousness".
This introduction follows the origins and maturation of Pavlov's quest from his early life in a priestly family in provincial Riazan, to his struggles and late professional success in the glittering capital of St. Petersburg, through the cataclysmic destruction of his world during the Bolshevik seizure of power and civil war of 1917-1921, to the rebuilding of his life in his 70s as a "prosperous dissident" during the Leninist 1920s, and his success and personal torments in 1929-1936 during the industrialization, cultural revolution, and terror of Stalin times.
Beyond a basic biography, Todes devotes particular attention to Pavlov's Nobel Prize-winning research on digestion (1891-1903) and his iconic studies of conditional reflexes and higher nervous activity (1903-1936), as well as his experiments with dogs. Fundamentally reinterpreting Pavlov's famous research on conditional reflexes, Todes shows that Pavlov was not a behaviourist, did not use a bell, and was uninterested in training dogs. The Russian scientist sought to explain not merely external behaviours, but the emotional and intellectual life of animals and humans. Furthermore, this iconic "objectivist" was a profoundly anthropomorphic thinker whose science was suffused with his own experiences and values. Exploring the two unpublished manuscripts upon which Pavlov was working when he died, Todes shows the importance of his little-known experiments on chimps and explores his final thoughts about the relationship between science, Christianity, and Bolshevism.
List of illustrations
Chapter 1. Winter at Koltushi
Chapter 2. Certainty: Religious and Scientific
Chapter 3. The Haunted Factory
Chapter 4. Pavlov's Quest
Chapter 5. Come the Bolsheviks
Chapter 6. Nervous Types
Chapter 7. Year of Climaxes
Chapter 8. Final Reflections and Afterward
Daniel P. Todes is Professor Emeritus of History of Medicine at John Hopkins University. His research concerns the relationship of scientific ideas to the context in which they are generated, and the history of science and medicine in Russia. He is the author of Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought and three previous books about Pavlov: Pavlov's Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise; a short biography for young adults: Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine; and the first archive-based scholarly biography in any language, Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science. His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, the International Research and Exchanges Board, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
"A magnificent overview of the life, work, and scientific passions of the experimental biologist who revealed the 'conditioned reflex' and became the first Russian Nobel Prize winner. Dan Todes provides concise and masterful insight into this fascinating figure."
– Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging and The Power of Place