Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science - Daniel P. Todes

I was planning to read more biographies when I first came across this one on Netgalley. I thought it would combine two of my interests: 19th Century Russia and (the early years of) science. I expected a normal sized book, but what I got was a massive biography 840 pages long.

 

840?! Yes, it was a bit (please read: a couple of hundred pages) longer than anticipated, but it became one of my projects to finish this book before the start of the new year. And see, I succeeded!

 

Daniel P. Todes has been researching Pavlov for over 20 years. And that's exactly what you feel when reading the book. It feel well-researched, filled with commentaries of about every person who could have played a role in Pavlov's life. I'm no expert myself, so I can't judge if everything is correct, but I just assume it is.

 

Unfortunately, this massive research is  - in my opinion - probably also the cause of its weakness. It's several hundred of pages too long. Even I read this book in stages. It's good that there is a such an extensive part on his research, but sometimes it's a bit too dry to read. Especially so with theories that have since been proved wrong (like the ability to inherit acquired qualities).

 

Pavlov did rarely use a bell for his research on dogs, he used a buzzer instead. (It's perfectly possible that it's just something that has gone lost in translation - in my head - but I don't see what the big fuzz is all about).

 

So, if you're looking for a really extensive biography on Ivan Pavlov: look no further, you've found it. It's also interspersed with information on the changing Russian environment. But beware, it's 840 pages long and it's not an easy read, but an interesting one nevertheless...

 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.