In search of science
This February 27 marks the 69th death anniversary of the Russian physiologist, Dr. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.
The man behind the method
Sneha's dog Skipper knows when she is preparing his food by the sound of the utensils clanking in the kitchen. He starts drooling happily in anticipation. Later in the day, when she is stacking up the dishes in the kitchen, the clanking of the steel vessels finds Skipper drooling in anticipation again, even though there is no fragrance of food to tempt him. Sneha laughs and tells him it is a "false alarm."
A century ago, it was Dr. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the legendary Russian physiologist, who took the trouble to investigate such behaviour in animals to establish the theory of conditioned reflexes.
His researches contributed greatly to the modern physiology of digestion, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for this work in 1904. It is 69 years this February 27 since the doctor died in Leningrad, Russia, in 1936.
Pavlov, whose father Peter Pavlov was a village priest, was born on September 14, 1849 in Ryazan. In childhood he was enrolled in a church school, and later, in a theological seminary. Drawn to the scientific spell of I.M. Sechenov, the father of Russian physiology, Pavlov left the seminary and took physics and mathematics to pursue a course in natural science in 1870.
In 1879 he completed a course in the Academy of Medical Surgery.
In 1883, he presented his doctoral thesis on the "Centrifugal Nerves of the Heart", through which he testified that there existed a basic pattern in the reflex regulation of the activity of the circulatory organs.
Dr. Pavlov was asked to set up and head the Department of Physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, a key centre of physiological research in 1890, an important assignment he continued for 45 years. Engrossed in a crucial decade-long research work at the Institute, Pavlov developed the surgical method of the chronic experiment with extensive use of fistulas, which enabled the functions of various organs to be observed continuously under relatively normal conditions.
Dr. Pavlov indicated that the nervous system played the dominant part in regulating the digestive process. This discovery stands out as the basis of modern physiology of digestion.
Dr. Pavlov's research work logically led him to create a science of conditioned reflexes. He paid special attention to the phenomenon of "psychic secretion", which is caused by food stimuli at a distance from the animal.
In 1905, it was established that any external agent could, by coinciding in time with an ordinary reflex, become the conditioned signal for the formation of a new conditioned reflex.
Dr. Pavlov also investigated "artificial conditioned reflexes." Eventually emerged an integrated Pavlovian Theory on Higher Nervous Activity.
Pavlov, who received many international honours, married Sraphima Karchevskaya, a teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. He left the richest scientific legacy - a brilliant group of pupils - to continue developing the ideas of their master, and a host of followers across the world.
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