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April 20, 1984

Pavlov Revisited

Author Affiliations

Dr Derbes is in private practice, New Orleans.

JAMA. 1984;251(15):1973. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340390027022

ACCORDING to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) is known for his development of the concept of the conditioned reflex. True enough, but was he the first to whom this idea came?

At least one thinker antedated him by some 650 years. I quote from K. P. Harrington's Mediaeval Latin, University of Chicago Press, 1962: "Jacques de Vitry was born somewhere in France in the latter part of the twelfth century, and advanced in the church until he became Bishop of Acon in Palestine in 1216, where he remained for several years. In 1227 he was made Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum, and died in 1240. He was a celebrated preacher and has left several volumes of sermons including the Sermones Communes sive Cotidiani and the Sermones Vulgares." I translate Exempla 38 from the latter.

"I have heard that a certain prelate in France had a quite superior horse; his