Pavlov steaks a claim

Yale University archives have a piece of steak signed by the famous Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. The story of how this meaty museum piece was created is told in a short article for Yale Magazine.

Pavlov was apparently visiting the renowned brain surgeon Harvey Cushing when a new piece of surgical equipment caught his eye.

Pavlov was captivated by the new electrosurgical knife Cushing used in the operation, and at the end of the procedure, Cushing got a piece of beef so that the elder scientist could try his hand. After making a few incisions, Pavlov inscribed his name into the meat. “I asked him whether he wanted me to eat the meat in the hope of improving my conditional reflexes,” Cushing wrote in his journal, “or whether we could keep it in the museum, the latter we will proceed to do—’Pavlov’s beef-steak.'” A collector of old medical books and of brain tumors, when he died in 1939 Cushing bequeathed both to Yale, where his rare books would become the cornerstone for creating the Medical Historical Library.

For all his work on salivation, it’s a little ironic that Pavlov’s first response on being handed a steak was to respond quite so unusually.

The article has more on the curious museum piece.

Link to article on the signed steak (via Wonderland).


  1. Posted October 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Many points for the groaner of a pun. I wish I’d thought of that.

  2. Posted October 15, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    One day, I too will be awesome enough to sign a piece of steak.

  3. Posted October 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Pavlov signing a steak…priceless…I’ve seen those types of tools in action, very impressive…and is it me or does it seem a little odd that someone had the foresight to keep and preserve this piece of steak?

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  3. […] pull out to explore. There was also a photo of Cushing with Ivan Pavlov beside the famous piece of steak that Pavlov “signed” with an electrosurgical knife in […]

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