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'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 Johannes Peter Mueller, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Hermann von Helmholtz (Berlin), Felix Hoppe-Seyler (Leipzig), Carl 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
  • Zusne, Leonard. 1984. Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24027-2
  • Ivan Sechenov at University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Neurology
  • Ivan Sechenov at Max Planck Institute for History - part of "The Virtual Laboratory, Essays and Resources on the Experimentalization of Life"