Vladimir Aleksandrovich Vagner

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vagner, Vladimir Aleksandrovich


Born Mar. 17 (29), 1849; died Mar. 8, 1934. Soviet biologist and psychologist and founder of comparative psychology in Russia.

Vagner was a professor at St. Petersburg, later Leningrad, University (1906-31). He was one of the organizers of the Psychoneurological Institute in Petrograd and the Museum of the Evolution of the Nervous System and Psyche at the Brain Institute in Leningrad. His first scientific works were devoted to the taxonomy and morphology of arthropods.

In his doctoral dissertation, “The Biological Method in Zoopsychology” (published in 1901), Vagner defended the idea of studying the development of the psyche of animals by the methods of evolutionary biology. From this position he conducted a cycle of investigations of instinctive activity in animals, mainly of their building structures: construction instincts in spiders (1894), structures of the urban swallow (1900), and others. In these works, anthropomorphism in the study of instincts—that is, attempts to study the behavior of animals by analogy to human behavior—was subjected to criticism, as was the purely physiological interpretation of animal activity, which ignores the psychological factor. Vagner assumed that the comparative psychological method required comparison of concrete forms of animal behavior not with human behavior but with the behavior of other forms closest to the animal in the evolutionary series. The evolution of instincts, according to Vagner, presumes the application to them of the biogenetic law.


Biologicheskie osnovaniia sravnitel’noi psikhologii (Bio-psi-khologiia), vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1910-13.
Biopsikhologiia i smezhnye nauki. Petrograd, 1923.
Vozniknovenie i razvitie psikhicheskikh sposobnostei, issues 1-9. Leningrad, 1924-29.


Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966.
Petrovskii, A. V. Istoriia sovetskoi psikhologii. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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