Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bequest of Pavlov to the Academic Youth of His Country

On 27 February 1936, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the renowned Russian scientist, discoverer of classical conditioning, and winner of the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, died. He was in his 87th year. Shortly before his death, he had written a scientific credo to share with young scientists. It was published posthumously in the 17 April 1936 issue of Science (p. 369, Vol. 83, Issue 2155):

What can I wish to the youth of my country who devote themselves to science?

Firstly, gradualness. About this most important condition of fruitful scientific work I never can speak without emotion. Gradualness, gradualness and gradualness. From the very beginning of your work, school yourself to severe gradualness in the accumulation of knowledge. Learn the ABC of science before .you try to ascend to its summit. Never begin "the subsequent without mastering the preceding. Never attempt to screen an insufficiency of knowledge even by the most audacious surmise and hypothesis. Howsoever this soap-bubble will rejoice your eyes by its play it inevitably will burst and you will have nothing except shame. School yourselves to demureness and patience. Learn to inure yourselves to drudgery in science. Learn, compare, collect the facts! Perfect as is the wing of a bird, it never could raise the bird up without resting on air. Facts are the air of a scientist. Without them you never can fly. Without them, your "theories" are vain efforts. But learning, experimenting, observing, try not to stay on the surface of the facts. Do not become the archivists of facts. Try to penetrate to the secret of their occurrence, persistently search for the laws which govern them.

Secondly, modesty. Never think that you already know all. However highly you are appraised always have the courage to say of yourself—I am, ignorant. Do not allow haughtiness to take you in possession. Due to that you will be obstinate where it is necessary to agree, you will refuse useful advice and friendly help, you will lose the standard of objectiveness.

Thirdly, passion. Remember that science demands from a man all his life. If you had two lives that would be not enough for you. Be passionate in your work and your searchings.

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