Ivan Sechenov

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Ivan Sechenov
Ива́н Миха́йлович Се́ченов
Repin SechenovIM.jpg
Portrait of Ivan Sechenov by Ilya Repin.
Born(1829-08-13)August 13, 1829
Tyoply Stan, Russian Empire
DiedNovember 15, 1905(1905-11-15) (aged 76)
Moscow, Russian Empire
EducationSt. Petersburg Main Military Engineering School
Alma mater
Scientific career

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 is also considered one of the originators of objective psychology.[2]

Sechenov authored the classic, Reflexes of the Brain, introducing electrophysiology and neurophysiology into laboratories and teaching of medicine.


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] After his military training, he became interested with medicine so he studied medicine at Moscow University, completing an M.D. degree in 1856.[5] He received the best of Russian education both in basic and clinical sciences.[3] He then pursued higher medical education abroad[5] and was mentored and influenced by European scientists that included Johannes Müller, Emil DuBois-Reymond, Hermann von Helmholtz, Carl F. W. Ludwig, Robert W. Bunsen, and Heinrich Magnus.[4] Sechenov worked as a professor at the Medical Surgery Academy until 1870.[6]

Sechenov's major interest was neurophysiology (the structure of the brain). He showed that brain activity is linked to electric currents and developed an interest in 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.

From 1856–1862 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. ^ Learning, Gale, Cengage (2015-03-13). A Study Guide for Psychologists and Their Theories for Students: IVAN PAVLOV. Gale, Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781410333377.
  3. ^ a b Haas, L. F. (1998-10-01). "Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov (1829-1905)". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 65 (4): 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.
  5. ^ a b Lawson, Robert B.; Graham, Jean E.; Baker, Kristin M. (2016). A History of Psychology: Globalization, Ideas, and Applications. New York: Routledge. p. 399. ISBN 9780130141231.
  6. ^ Saunders, Barbara R. (2006). Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Mysteries of Behavior. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc. pp. 30. ISBN 9780766025066.
  7. ^ Peter Kropotkin (1901). "The Present Crisis in Russia". The North American Review.