A comprehensive, nuanced picture of Pavlov's life and times and his seminal contributions to science.




An expansive scholarly biography of Russia's most eminent scientist.

Todes (Institute of History of Medicine/Johns Hopkins Univ.; Pavlov's Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise, 2001, etc.) traces the evolution of Ivan Pavlov's groundbreaking discoveries in the context of Russian history over the span of his life (1849-1936). This is the culmination of a decadeslong study of the scientist, whose name is iconic in the world of behaviorist psychology but whose work, according to Todes, is misunderstood. The author establishes that, unlike American behaviorists, Pavlov never “denied the importance or even the existence of an inner, subjective world. He also never used the term “conditioned reflex.” He used the term “conditional” to describe the salivation of dogs expecting food upon receiving a signal such as the sound of a bell. The intention of the term was to distinguish “conditional reflexes,” which might or might not occur, from automatic, unconditional responses—e.g., caused by direct contact of food with the salivary glands. By the time Pavlov embarked on his well-known work with dogs, he had already received the Nobel Prize, which was awarded to him in 1904 for his studies on digestive physiology. These involved tracing how the arousal of appetite acted to stimulate “the secretory nerves of the gastric glands” and was followed up by excitations produced when food “excites the specialized nerves in the mucous membrane of the stomach.” Politically a liberal, Pavlov welcomed the 1905 revolution, but he was not a supporter of the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, his prominence on the international stage was significant enough that he was able to pursue his research and even travel abroad. In 1935, a year before his death, he organized and hosted the International Congress of Physiologists in Leningrad.

A comprehensive, nuanced picture of Pavlov's life and times and his seminal contributions to science.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0199925193

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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