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Lysenkoism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 05 June 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests delve into the dark world of genetics under Joseph Stalin in discussing the career of Trofim Lysenko. In 1928, as America lurched towards the Wall Street Crash, Joseph Stalin revealed his master plan - nature was to be conquered by science, Russia to be made brutally, glitteringly modern and the world transformed by communist endeavour.Into the heart of this vision stepped Trofim Lysenko, a self-taught geneticist who promised to turn Russian wasteland into a grain-laden Garden of Eden. Today, Lysenko is a byword for fraud but in Stalin’s Russia his outlandish ideas about genetic inheritance and evolution became law. They reveal a world of science distorted by ideology, where ideas were literally a matter of life and death. To disagree with Lysenko risked the gulag and yet he destroyed Soviet Agriculture and damaged, perhaps irreparably, the Soviet Union’s capacity to fight and win the Cold War. With Robert Service, Professor of Russian History at the University of Oxford; Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London; Catherine Merridale, Professor of Contemporary History at Queen Mary, University of London.

  • Further Reading

    Holloway, David, Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996)

    Graham, Loren, What Have We Learned About Science and Technology from the Russian Experience? (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1998)

    Joravsky, David, The Lysenko Affair (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970)

    Krementsov, Nikolai, The Cure: A Story of Cancer and Politics from the Annals of the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)

    Lysenko, Trofim, The Science of Biology Today (New York: International Publishers, 1948)

    Medvedev, Zhores, The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969)

    Service, Robert, A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin (2nd revised edn; London: Macmillan, 2002)

    Service, Robert, Stalin: A Biography (London: Macmillan, 2004)

    Stites, Richard, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford University Press, USA, 1991)

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