Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936)

Ivan Pavlov with three colleagues operating on a dog, 1902. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

The Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov became famous for his experiments on dogs (‘Pavlov's dogs’). These experiments investigated how the nervous system controls the process of digestion. They were the basis for Pavlov's further work on conditional reflexes. He showed that dogs could be conditioned to salivate when they heard a bell, which they associated with feeding.

Originally, Pavlov had entered a theological school to become a priest, like his father. However, he abandoned the school to study science and medicine in St Petersburg and in Leipzig. Pavlov was an outstanding student; he won prizes at university, and gathered recognition and academic positions afterwards. He became director of the newly founded St Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine in 1890, a position that he held until his death. In 1904 Pavlov received a Nobel Prize in recognition of his work on digestion.