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 Ivan Sechenov

Born:   August 13, 1829
Deceased:   November 15, 1905

Russian scientist, physiologist and biologist


Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov, an eminent Russian physiologist, was born on August 13, 1829 to the family of a former military man in the Tyoply Stan village near Simbirsk (Ulianovsk during the soviet regime).

Basics of science were taught to the boy at home, since his family’s financial situation left much to be desired after his father’ death. In 1843 Ivan Sechenov went to St. Petersburg, where he passed entrance examinations to Chief College of Engineers. Several years after Sechenov graduated from the College as a warrant officer and was assigned to an ordinary engineer combat battalion, where future scientist spent two years and then resigned his commission.

Ivan Sechenov entered medical faculty of Moscow University, however, during last years of his studies Sechenov got disappointed with the state of medical science of that times.

Physiology became his dream. After finishing a course of studies, Ivan Sechenov passed doctor examinations and successfully defended hi master thesis. In 1856 he went abroad “with a strong intention to do some physiology” and spent several years there, preparing his Doctor dissertation. His work’s title was “Materials for physiology of alcohol intoxication”, and all experiments were performed on a poor author.

In 1860 the man of science returned to Russia and became a professor of St. Petersburg Medical Academy. Sechenov discovered so-called “central inhibition” – special processes in frog’s brain, which inhibit or suppress reflexes. This absolutely new phenomenon was called “Sechenov’s inhibition” and described in the paper, written in 1863 first in French, and then in Russian and German languages.



The same year Russian magazine “Reporter of Medicine” published another Sechenov’s paper “Reflexes of Human Brain”, where the scientist first showed how external irritants affected human complex mental life and behaviour. Any irritation caused reflex – response of the nervous system. Phenomenon of inhibition, discovered by Sechenov, helped finding out that every nervous activity consisted of interaction of two processes – excitation and inhibition.

In 1866 Sechenov’s classic work “Physiology of nervous system” came off the press, where the genius expresses a very important theory of self-regulation and feedback, which later was developed in cybernetics. This theory led the scientist to the idea of signal and signal as behaviour regulator.

In 1867, after ten years spent in the Academy, Sechenov left for a sabbatical and then worked with Mendeleev for some time. Later Ivan Mikhailovich worked as a professor in the university of Novorossiysk. The researcher dreamt of revealing secrets of very important physiological process – consumption and emission of carbon dioxide by blood, and that aim resulted in essential discoveries in the theory of solutions.

In September 1869 Sechenov became corresponding member of Emperor’s St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. In 1876 the scientist returned to St. Petersburg and took the position of a professor at the physiology department of the faculty of physics and mathematics in St. Petersburg University. In 1889 Ivan Sechenov formulated “ Sechenov's equation”, an empirical formula, connecting gas solubility in electrolyte solution with its concentration.

In 1891 Sechenov became professor of the physiology department at Moscow University, where started research on gaseous interchange and continued studies of neuromuscular physiology, resulting in a fundamental book “Physiology of Nervous Centres”.

In 1901 Ivan Sechenov retired from his work. In 1905 the great scientist died.


Kizilova Anna

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