We have all heard of Pavlov's Dogs, the experiment where the dogs "drooled" at the sounding of a bell. But, do we know of the details of this infamous experiment? What do we know of the man, beyond that he could ring bells? It is my intention, in this brief dissertation, to shed more light on his life and his experiments.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov's life was one of triumph in spite of tragedy; nevertheless he lived life on his on terms. While a child, he was involved in an accident that prevented him from beginning school until he was 11 years old. Yet, still had the wherewithal to abandon theological seminary at the age of 21 to pursue physiology. The son of an Orthodox priest, he was ironically diverted from becoming a second-generation clergy, by the works of Charles Darwin and Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov, which he read while in seminary. Even his marriage was not spared the cyclic heartbreak then elation pattern that appeared to prevail in his life. He married Seraphima Karchevskaya, with whom he had six children. Of their six children, two died prematurely, the first of a miscarriage, the second while as a young child. Yet, despite the odds to the contrary, one of the surviving children followed their father's career path and made his own reputation in physics. Pavlov's love of physiology apparently made a lasting impression.
Pavlov's legendary experiments made more of an impression on the general public, than did his other contributions. For in the public domain he He is widely thought of as a psychologist, while his life's work was physiology. Pavlov's first independent experiments were pioneering studies which lead to the understanding of how nerves regulate the force of a heart beats contraction. It involved using unanaesthetized dogs that he had trained to lie still while he made an incision, exposed an artery and then connected blood pressure monitoring equipment. His second independent experiment involved investigating the digestion process. In this experiment he surgically make fistulas (at strategic points throughout the digestive tract), which enabled him to observe, take and measure sample of the various secretions. As can be observed from the diagram the placement of the fistulas took some experimentation. It is reported that upward of twenty dogs where sacrificed during the learning curve. Wow "“ animal rights advocates would have had a field day with Pavlov! But, these animals did not die in vain for the observations made by Pavlov have had far reaching affects even into the 21st century. Where would gastrointestinal ailment sufferers be without many of his observations and findings? Nonetheless, it was these experiments that lead to his legendary experiment and on to a Nobel Prize (in 1904). Quite incidentally Pavlov noticed that the lab dogs would start salivating and secreting, around mealtime as soon as they saw or heard the assistant who fed them. Eventually this got Pavlov thinking about what caused them to react this way and lead to him investigating this phenomenon. During the course of these experiments he tried variations on ring the bell. All which lead to the theory of Conditioned Reflexes. Which made objective study of psychic activity possible, because prior to this the studies were much more subjective. Incomplete sentence
My personal thoughts on Pavlov were initially, rather neutral, but now I am much more conflicted. On one hand I feel admiration for a person who can succeed through such adversity. I see a man who had much suffering in his life whether inflicted by him or to him. Whether it was his early trauma in life or the grief that comes with the death of a child; he lived with much mental anguish. Then, on the other hand, I feel revulsion toward a person who could inflict such cruelty on domesticated animals. Ultimately I end up wondering whether this illumination was worth the minor irritation that resulted in me needing to pop a Zantac â„¢.