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Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science by…
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Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science

by Daniel P. Todes

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Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

I was planning to read more biographies when I first came across this one on Netgalley. I thought it would combine two of my interests: 19th Century Russia and (the early years of) science. I expected a normal sized book, but what I got was a massive biography 840 pages long.

840?! Yes, it was a bit (please read: a couple of hundred pages) longer than anticipated, but it became one of my projects to finish this book before the start of the new year. And see, I succeeded!

Daniel P. Todes has been researching Pavlov for over 20 years. And that's exactly what you feel when reading the book. It feel well-researched, filled with commentaries of about every person who could have played a role in Pavlov's life. I'm no expert myself, so I can't judge if everything is correct, but I just assume it is.

Unfortunately, this massive research is - in my opinion - probably also the cause of its weakness. It's several hundred of pages too long. Even I read this book in stages. It's good that there is a such an extensive part on his research, but sometimes it's a bit too dry to read. Especially so with theories that have since been proved wrong (like the ability to inherit acquired qualities).

Pavlov did rarely use a bell for his research on dogs, he used a buzzer instead. (It's perfectly possible that it's just something that has gone lost in translation - in my head - but I don't see what the big fuzz is all about).

So, if you're looking for a really extensive biography on Ivan Pavlov: look no further, you've found it. It's also interspersed with information on the changing Russian environment. But beware, it's 840 pages long and it's not an easy read, but an interesting one nevertheless...

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199925194, Hardcover)

"Contrary to legend, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) never trained a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell."

So begins this definitive, deeply researched biography of Ivan Pavlov. Daniel P. Todes fundamentally reinterprets the Russian physiologist's famous research on conditional reflexes and weaves his life, values, and science into the tumultuous century of Russian history-particularly that of its intelligentsia-from the reign of tsar Nicholas I to Stalin's time.

Ivan Pavlov was born to a family of priests in provincial Riazan before the serfs were emancipated, and made his home and professional success in the booming capital of St. Petersburg in late imperial Russia. He suffered the cataclysmic destruction of his world during the Bolshevik seizure of power and civil war of 1917-21, rebuilt his life in his seventies as a "prosperous dissident" during the Leninist 1920s, and flourished professionally as never before in the 1930s industrialization, revolution, and terror of Stalin times.

Using a wide variety of previously unavailable archival materials, Todes tells a vivid story of that life and redefines Pavlov's legacy. Pavlov was not, in fact, a behaviorist who believed that psychology should address only external behaviors; rather, he sought to explain the emotional and intellectual life of animals and humans, "the torments of our consciousness." This iconic "objectivist" was actually a profoundly anthropomorphic thinker whose science was suffused with his own experiences, values, and subjective interpretations.

Todes's story of this powerful personality and extraordinary man is based upon interviews with surviving coworkers and family members (along with never-before-analyzed taped interviews from the 1960s and 1970s), examination of hundreds of scientific works by Pavlov and his coworkers, and close analysis of
materials from some twenty-five archives. The materials range from the records of his student years at Riazan Seminary to the transcripts of the Communist Party cells in his labs, and from his scientific
manuscripts and notebooks to his political speeches; they include revealing love letters to his future wife and correspondence with hundreds of scholars, artists, and Communist Party leaders; and memoirs by many coworkers, his daughter, his wife, and his lover.

The product of more than twenty years of research, this is the first scholarly biography of the physiologist to be published in any language.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:48 -0400)

"Using a wide variety of previously unavailable archival materials, Todes tells a vivid story of that life and redefines Pavlov's legacy. Pavlov was not, in fact, a behaviorist who believed that psychology should address only external behaviors; rather, he sought to explain the emotional and intellectual life of animals and humans, "the torments of our consciousness." This iconic "objectivist" was actually a profoundly anthropomorphic thinker whose science was suffused with his own experiences, values, and subjective interpretations. Todes's story of this powerful personality and extraordinary man is based upon interviews with surviving coworkers and family members (along with never-before-analyzed taped interviews from the 1960s and 1970s), examination of hundreds of scientific works by Pavlov and his coworkers, and close analysis of materials from some twenty-five archives. The materials range from the records of his student years at Riazan Seminary to the transcripts of the Communist Party cells in his labs, and from his scientific manuscripts and notebooks to his political speeches; they include revealing love letters to his future wife and correspondence with hundreds of scholars, artists, and Communist Party leaders; and memoirs by many coworkers, his daughter, his wife, and his lover."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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