Bernshtein, Nikolai Aleksandrovich

Bernshtein, Nikolai Aleksandrovich


Born Oct. 24 (Nov. 5), 1896, Moscow; died there Jan. 16, 1966. Soviet psychophysiologist and physiologist, creator of a new research specialization—the physiology of activity.

Bernshtein graduated from the medical department (1919) and then took the course of the mathematics department of the University of Moscow. In 1922 he organized the biomechanics laboratory of the Central Labor Institute and later of the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine; he was also organizer and chief of the biomechanics laboratories at various institutes (Central Scientific Research Institute of Physical Culture and others).

Bernshtein’s research constitutes the theoretical foundation of contemporary biomechanics, especially the biomechanics of athletics, prosthesis, labor, activities of astronauts, and so on. A number of Bernshtein’s works are devoted to the study of the dynamics of muscular forces and the innervational structures of motor acts. He introduced basic improvements in the techniques of recording and analyzing movements (kymocyclogram and cyclogrammetry). Several ideas expressed by Bernshtein in the 1930’s anticipated the basic assumptions of cybernetics. To Bernshtein belongs one of the first clear formulations of the concept of feedback in physiology and also the idea of the organization of movement by levels. As a result of the inadequacy of the concept of the “reflex arc” in explaining motor acts, Bernshtein introduced the concept of the “reflex cycle,” based on the interpretation of the entire system of relations between the organism and its environment as a continuous cyclic process. The concept of the physiology and biology of activity created by Bernshtein laid the foundation for the development of new principles for understanding the body’s life activities. Centering attention on the problem of the organism’s activity in relation to its environment, Bernshtein laid a broad scientific, as well as experimental, base for the study of the expediency of the actions of a living organism. Bernshtein’s ideas have gone beyond the confines of neurophysiology and psychophysiology and are at the center of contemporary problems in neurocybernetics, bionics, and so on. He earned the State Prize of the USSR (1948) for his monograph “On the Structure of Movement.”


Obshchaia biomekhanika. Moscow, 1926.
“Problema vzaimootnoshenii koordinatsii i lokalizatsii.” Arkhiv biologicheskikh nauk, 1935, vol. 38, issue 1.
“Ocherednye problemy fiziologii aktivnosti.” In Problemy kibernetiki, issue 6. Moscow, 1961.
“Puti i zadachi fiziologii aktivnosti.” Voprosy filosofii, 1961, no. 6.
Ocherki po fiziologii dvizhenii i fiziologii aktivnosti. Moscow, 1966.


Modeli strukturno-funktsional’noi organizatsii nekotorykh biologicheskikh sistem. Moscow, 1966.
Bassin, F. V. “O podlinnom znachenii neirofiziologicheskikh kontseptsii N. A. Bernshteina.” Voprosy filosofii, 1967, no. 11.


References in classic literature ?
Very well," said the Magistrate, putting on the black cap and a solemn look; "as the accused makes no defence, and is undoubtedly guilty, I sentence her to be eaten by the public executioner; and as that position happens to be vacant, I appoint you to it, without bonds.
Just as eleven of them had done blessing her, a great noise was heard in the courtyard, and word was brought that the thirteenth fairy was come, with a black cap on her head, and black shoes on her feet, and a broomstick in her hand: and presently up she came into the dining- hall.
She had brought the meat home that she should have eaten herself, and was already warming it on a gridiron over the fire for her father, clad in an old grey gown and a black cap, awaiting his supper at the table.
Look at your boat, sir; you in the red and black caps.
God speed the day of his coronation, when, before the very eyes of the Plantagenet hound, a black cap shall be placed upon his head for a crown; beneath his feet the platform of a wooden gibbet for a throne.
It had more than once happened, that the Judge in the black cap pronounced his own doom as certainly as the prisoner's, and even died before him.
When the judge put on his black cap, the owner of the stolen linen rose trembling up, his lip quivering, his face as gray as ashes; and when the awful words came, he cried out, 'Oh, poor child, poor child, I did not know it was death
It was that of a dark, thin man in a long black robe rather like a cassock; but the black cap on his head was of too strange a shape to be a biretta.
They next placed a thick black cap right over his head and the upper part of his face, so that he could see nothing.
said Lord Lundie suddenly in a voice that made me think of Black Caps.
le cure was short, round, and red: he advanced, pulling off his little black cap to Newman, and deposited his burden on the table; and then he sat down in the best arm-chair, with his hands folded across his person.
I saw the hard ghastly face behind the window soften, and light up with gratified pride--I saw the head with the grim black cap bend ceremoniously in return.