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Pavlov's Physiology Factory

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Pavlov's Physiology Factory

Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise

Russian physiologist and Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov is most famous for his development of the concept of the conditional reflex and the classic experiment in which he trained a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. In Pavlov's Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise, Daniel P. Todes explores Pavlov's early work in digestive physiology through the structures and practices of his landmark laboratory—the physiology department of the Imperial Institute for Experimental Medicine.

In Lectures on the Work of the Main Digestive Glands, for which Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in 1904, the scientist frequently referred to the experiments of his coworkers and stated that his conclusions reflected "the deed of the entire laboratory." This novel claim caused the prize committee some consternation. Was he alone deserving of the prize? Examining the fascinating content of Pavlov's scientific notes and correspondence, unpublished memoirs, and laboratory publications, Pavlov's Physiology Factory explores the importance of Pavlov's directorship of what the author calls a "physiology factory" and illuminates its relationship to Pavlov's Nobel Prize-winning work and the research on conditional reflexes that followed it.

Todes looks at Pavlov's performance in his various roles as laboratory manager, experimentalist, entrepreneur, and scientific visionary. He discusses changes wrought by government and commercial interests in science and sheds light on the pathways of scientific development in Russia—making clear Pavlov's personal achievements while also examining his style of laboratory management. Pavlov's Physiology Factory thus addresses issues of importance to historians of science and scientists today: "big" versus "small" science, the dynamics of experiment and interpretation, and the development of research cultures.