Nikolai Bernstein

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Nikolai Bernstein (Николай Александрович Бернштейн; 1896–1966) was a Soviet neurophysiologist.

He was responsible for developing ideas relevant to many disciplines that constitute the human movement sciences. In his youth he wanted to become a linguist, but his plans were affected when he was eighteen by the outbreak of the First World War. Owing to the number of physicians needed in the army, Bernstein opted to study medicine.

From 1921-23 Bernstein was the leading physiologist at Moscow's Central Institute of Labour (CIT) founded by Aleksei Gastev in 1920. Until 1947 he worked at the National Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow, where he was head of the scientific department. In 1947 he won the very prestigious national prize (known as the Stalin Prize) for his famous book O postroyenii dvizheniy [On Construction of Movements], in which he presented a five-level system for the construction of movements. Regrettably, somewhat later he was accused of political disloyalty and was removed from his position. Deprived of the possibility to undertake experimental work and without direct contact with the Institute, he set about creating a new branch of science: physiology of activity. He also increasingly devoted his attention to cybernetics. While he continued to make a significant contribution to these fields, Bernstein's ideas were not allowed to grow and flourish as they deserved to. Before the end of his life he still managed to author the book The Co-ordination and Regulation of Movements — which until 1996 was the only book by Bernstein to have been published in English.[1]


  • O lovkosti i yeye razvitii [О ловкости и ее развитии], ed. I.M. Feygenberg (И.М.Фейгенберг), Moscow: Fizkultura i sport, 1991. [2] (Russian)


  1. Andrey Smirnov, Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-century Russia, London: Koenig Books & Sound and Music, 2013, p 116.

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