380 pages, b/w photos
In Lysenko and the Tragedy of Soviet Science, Dr Soyfer, a former Soviet scientist who had met Lysenko, documents the destruction of science and scientists under the influence of Lysenko. Contrary to numerous opinions, Lysenko was a poorly educated agronomist who happened to have been in the right place at the right time: In the '30s, "Pravda" wrote him up as a pioneering scientist. Recognising that newspapers and popular support could fuel his rise to the top of Soviet society, he set about making a name for himself as a scientist in non-academic journals and periodicals. His peasant upbringing and miraculous findings – never empirically proven or duplicated – made him a star proletarian scientist, the kind needed to bring about true Communism.
Along his way to the top, he was assisted by many people who thought him a sincere, but ill-prepared, scientist; he later had many of these people purged after gaining the almost total support of Stalin and Khrushchev. His grand claims of producing superior cattle and wheat, among other things, consistently failed, yet no one dared oppose or even question his policies. Whether to propel himself upward, bring down the academics he apparently detested, or protect himself and his "science", Lysenko nearly eliminated all serious work in genetics, agriculture, and biology from the '30s into the '60s. Numerous scientists were exiled, fired, or executed during his reign as the people's scientist; according to the author, the effects still linger in Russia.
An amazing story of how, when politics decrees what science is acceptable and how it is going to work in the political paradigm, the results can be tragic.
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