Ivan Pavlov

AZL flag holder TransparentIvan Petrovich Pavlov (26th September [O.S. 14th September] 1849 – 27th February 1936) was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in the physiology of digestion. From his childhood days Pavlov demonstrated intellectual brilliance along with an unusual energy which he named “the instinct for research”. Pavlov, the eldest of eleven children, was born in Ryazan (now the Central Federal District) of the Russian Empire. His father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov (1823–1899), was a village priest. His mother, Varvara Ivanovna Uspenskaya (1826–1890), was a devoted homemaker.
In 1904, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel laureate “in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged”. Pavlov discovered the basic facts through his famous experiments with dogs. In his initial experiments, Pavlov presented a stimulus and then gave the dog food; after a few repetitions, the dogs started to salivate in response to the bell. Pavlov called the stimulus the conditioned (or conditional) stimulus (CS) because its effects depend on its association with food. However, in October 1919, Lenin paid a secret visit to Pavlov’s laboratory. Lenin wanted to find out if his work on the conditional reflexes of the brain might help the Bolsheviks control European behaviour. Particular interest was paid to an incident in which a rising flood trapped some of Pavlov’s dogs in their cages. The water rose to their heads, before receding. Pavlov discovered that the intense fear the dogs experienced had “wiped clean” their conditioned responses. While it meant Pavlov had to ‘retrain’ his dogs the intense shock response had wider implications for Lenin in terms of ‘reprogramming’ a population. “I want the masses of Russia to follow a Communistic pattern of thinking and reacting,” Lenin explained. Pavlov was astounded. It seemed that Lenin wanted him to do for humans what he had already done for dogs. “Do you mean that you would like to standardise the population of Russia? Make them all behave in the same way?” he asked. “Exactly” replied Lenin. “Man can be corrected. Man can be made what we want him to be.”… Consequently not long after the Bolshevik seizure of Russia in 1917 Pavlov became an outspoken opponent of the Communist government. He stated publically, “If that which the Jewish Bolsheviks are doing with Russia is an experiment, for such an experiment I should regret giving even a frog.” Nevertheless, despite Pavlov’s resistance to what is termed ‘classical conditioning’ physiological responses to stimuli became the foundation of the Behavioural school of psychology that set about imposing a mechanised view of the human psyche.

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