Ivan Sechenov

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Portrait of Ivan Sechenov by Ilya Repin.

Ivan Mikhaylovich Sechenov (Russian: Ива́н Миха́йлович Се́ченов; August 13 [O.S. August 1] 1829, Tyoply Stan (now Sechenovo) near Simbirsk, Russia – November 15 [O.S. November 2] 1905,[1] Moscow), was a Russian physiologist. Ivan Pavlov referred to him as the "Father of Russian physiology and scientific psychology". Sechenov authored the classic, Reflexes of the Brain, introducing electrophysiology and neurophysiology into laboratories and teaching of medicine. Sechenov is also recognized as one of the three scholars - along with John B. Watson and Jean Piaget - who independently arrived at the conclusion that the activities that serve as elements of thinking are internalized or "ractional" versions of motor responses.[2]


Sechenov was born in the village of Tepli Stan, which is now known as Sechenov, Gorky Oblast,[3] he was a son of a nobleman and a peasant. Sechenov was first taught by private tutors and he had mastered German and French at an early age.[4] By the age of 14, he was admitted to the St. Petersburg Military Engineering School[4] and, since then, he received the best of Russian education both in basic and clinical sciences,[3] his teachers included Johannes Müller, Emil DuBois-Reymond, Hermann von Helmholtz, Carl F. W. Ludwig, Robert W. Bunsen, and Heinrich Magnus.[4]

Sechenov's major interest was neurophysiology (the structure of the brain), he showed that brain activity is linked to electric currents and was the first to introduce electrophysiology. Among his discoveries was the cerebral inhibition of spinal reflexes, he also maintained that chemical factors in the environment of the cell are of great importance.

Between 1856 and 1862 Sechenov studied and worked in Europe in laboratories of Mueller, du Bois-Reymond, von Helmholtz (Berlin), Felix Hoppe-Seyler (Leipzig), Ludwig (Vienna), and Claude Bernard (Paris).

Like several other Russian scientists of the period Sechenov was often in conflict with the tsarist government and conservative colleagues, but he did not emigrate. In 1866, the censorship committee in St. Petersburg attempted judicial procedures accusing Sechenov of spreading materialism and of "debasing of Christian morality".


Sechenov's work laid the foundations for the study of reflexes, animal and human behaviour, and neuroscience, he was an influence on Vladimir Bekhterev and Vladimir Nikolayevich Myasishchev when they set up the Institute of Brain and Psychic Activity in 1918.

Selected works[edit]

  • 1860 Materialy dlya buduschey fiziologii alkogolnogo opyanenia. St. Petersburg ("Some facts for the future study of alcohol intoxication", in Russian)
  • 1862 O zhivotnom elektrichestve. St. Petersburg ("On animal electricity", in Russian)
  • 1863 "Refleksy golovnogo mozga." Meditsinsky vestnik 47-48 ("Reflexes of the brain", in Russian)
  • 1866 Fiziologia nervnoy sistemy. St. Petersburg ("Physiology of the nervous system", in Russian)
  • 1873 "Komu i kak razrabatyvat psikhologiyu." Vestnik Evropy 4 ("Who should and How to develop Psychology", in Russian)
  • 1897 The Physiological Criteria of the Length of the Working Day
  • 1900 Participation of the Nervous System in Man's Working Movements
  • 1901 Participation of the Senses and Manual dexterity in Sighted and Blind Persons
  • 1901 Essay on Man's Working Movements



  1. ^ Ivan Sechenov at the Garant information center
  2. ^ "Thought". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-04-04.
  3. ^ a b Haas, L. F. (1998-10-01). "Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov (1829-1905)". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 65 (4): 554–554. doi:10.1136/jnnp.65.4.554. ISSN 0022-3050. PMC 2170266. PMID 9771783.
  4. ^ a b c "Sechenov, Ivan M. | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2019-04-04.