Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich


Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898–1976) was a Soviet agronomist and charlatan, who proclaimed the inheritance of acquired characteristics and transformation of species in plants. Lysenko was a member of the cohort of uneducated ‘barefoot professors’, whose folk wisdom would lead the way in developing the country's agriculture. He came to the notice of the régime by publicising his technique of ‘vernalisation’, which he asserted could ‘educate’ winter wheat into producing an abundant crop in the spring, not just in the following year but ever after. This was enough to secure him a position as director of a specially created unit at the All‐Union Plant Breeding Institute, and thereafter his claims became ever more extravagant. He could not only impose newly acquired characteristics on crop plants, but also convert one species into another. As his power grew, Lysenko's doctrines were officially recognised, and dissidents were treated harshly. The poison spread to engulf most of Soviet genetics. Lysenko's reign of two decades ended with Stalin's death.

Keywords: Soviet biology; Marxist science; Lamarckian inheritance; Lamarck; Michurin; Soviet genetics; inheritance of acquired characteristics; charlatanism; vernalisation

Figure 1.

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898–1976).


Further Reading

Joravsky D (1970) The Lysenko Affair. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lecourt D (1995) Lyssenko: Histoire Réelle d'une Science Prolétarienne. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France (PUF).

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

Roll‐Hansen N (2005) The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science. New York: Humanity Books.

Soyfer VN (1994) Lysenko and the Tragedy of Soviet Science. New York: Rutgers University Press.

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How to Cite close
Gratzer, Walter(May 2014) Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002542.pub2]