Trofim Lysenko

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Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (Russian: Трофи́м Дени́сович Лысе́нко, Ukrainian: Трохим Денисович Лисенко, Trofym Denysovych Lysenko) (September 29 [O.S. September 17] 1898 – November 20, 1976) was a Soviet agronomist who was director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of the hybridization theories of Russian horticulturist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, and adopted them into a powerful political-scientific movement termed Lysenkoism. His unorthodox experimental research in improved crop yields earned the support of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, especially following the famine and loss of productivity resulting from forced collectivization in several regions of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. In 1940 he became director of the Institute of Genetics within the USSR's Academy of Sciences, and Lysenko's anti-Mendelian doctrines were further secured in Soviet science and education by the exercise of political influence and power. Scientific dissent from Lysenko's theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in 1948, and for the next several years opponents were purged from held positions, and many imprisoned. Lysenko's work was officially discredited in the Soviet Union in 1964, leading to a renewed emphasis there to re-institute Mendelian genetics and orthodox science.

Though Lysenko remained at his post in the Institute of Genetics until 1965,[1] his influence on Soviet agricultural practice declined by the 1950s. The Soviet Union quietly abandoned Lysenko's agricultural practices in favor of modern agricultural practices after the crop yields he promised failed to materialize. Today much of Lysenko's agricultural experimentation and research is largely viewed as fraudulent.

Contents

Early rise

Lysenko, the son of Denis and Oksana Lysenko, came from a peasant family in Ukraine and attended the Kiev Agricultural Institute. In 1927, at 29 years of age and working at an agricultural experiment station in Azerbaijan, he was credited by the Soviet newspaper Pravda with having discovered a method to fertilize fields without using fertilizers or minerals, and with having proved that a winter crop of peas could be grown in Azerbaijan, "turning the barren fields of the Transcaucasus green in winter, so that cattle will not perish from poor feeding, and the peasant Turk will live through the winter without trembling for tomorrow."[2] In succeeding years, however, further attempts to grow the peas were unsuccessful.

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