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NATS 1775 Quiz: Trofim Lysenko was an agronomist who worked in Soviet Union in 1920.docx

Natural Science
Course Code
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri
Study Guide

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- Trofim Lysenko was an agronomist who worked in Soviet Union in 1920’s 7
- claimed to discover new biological process
- Most agricultural researchers at this time believed that it wasn’t the agriculture
that played a huge role in seed development, it was actually genetics. Genetics
theory was missing from Lysenko’s idea of vernalitization: germinated seeds of
various plants treated with abnormal conditions relating to environmental
exposure (extreme heat, cold, etc…) so that they develop in “appropriate” way
- based on idea that If seeds exposed to extreme conditions, would not only
develop but would develop in better way; increase in yields
Lysenko will become neo-Lamarckian named after past scientist named Charles
Darwin and Lamarck were evolutionists, both believed in evolutionary theory, but
they had different mechanisms of evolution. Example of Giraffe. Lamarck said way
back in the past there were short neck giraffes in nature. Short neck giraffe who
would be completely fine in their environment as long as they had adequate food
supplies. Overtime as these giraffes had their food supplies in scarce, they looked
out for alternative food sources and what many of these short neck giraffes would do
was to find out food supplies sources in higher locations, thereby giving them stretch
in their necks to get their supplies. As these giraffes stretched, the next generations
will be longer necks and he thought the evolutionary process.
Darwin said there are both short necks and long necks giraffe in nature. Long necks
had advantage over there counter parties. Darwin suggested that this long neck was
a genetic advantage. As a result short neck giraffes die and long neck giraffes
survived and that is why we have long neck giraffes today. Darwin called this survival
of the fittest. Idea that species in nature would survive because of these genetic
advantages over the other. Lamarck’s focus was on environment and Darwin was on
genetics. This is key to understanding Lysenko because Lysenko despite the focus
of genetics by the mid-20th century was now proposing going back to this focus on
environmental adaptation. Lysenko’s ideas became recognized by an individual in
Soviet Union is Joseph Stalin, head of soviet union at that time. He was interested in
lysenkos work because he thought it would fit in very well under the umbrella of
Marxist Science. Stalin wanted to create was science based on the concepts of
Marxist political philosophy.
The term used to describe this is dialectical materialism. Means people like Lysenko
who framed their social and scientific theories by using Marxist language and
Marxist terminology. Lysenko sees a future within Soviet Union by connecting his
idea of vernalitization to Marxist philosophy. He did this in a very clever way. For
example part of Marxist political philosophy was about this idea that every person is
born equal. No matter what circumstances you are born into, if you work hard
enough you will adapt and survive in your environmental conditions. This was true in
Soviet Union where people’s social economic status is often poor, lived in harsh cold
environment and were told to do intense manual labour.
What Lysenko did was to compare his seeds to the Soviet people suggesting that just
like his seeds can be exposed to harsh environmental conditions; this was the point of
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soviet people who were also exposed to harsh environmental conditions. Just like the
seeds which would adapt and drive overtime, this would what Soviet Union would do as
well. Vernalitization became such an important concept in Soviet union that we see
Lysenko rewarded greatly at his effort. Rewards and Punishment. Lysenko was given
huge amounts of money to pursue his research and overtime he will get prestigious
positions within the soviet academic association. We also see Punishment as well,
because a former president of this academy, Vavilov, was an individual who rejects
Lysenko and his work. He believes that Vernalitization was useless and as a result he
was fired from this position and spent his days in labour camp where he eventually died.
This belief in Vernalitization was that if you did not believe in this theory, you were not
going to do well in Soviet Union at the time. No matter how much money and prestige
Lysenko was given, Vernalitization did not give successful results. Lysenko was never to
do much; his theory was kept on funded because it fit well in the political ideology of
Stalin’s regime. Politics can negatively impact scientific research because in Lysenko’s
example scientific research was pursued because of politics but the research did not
work at all.
One of the areas that Soviet Union did not involve themselves in was physics. Their lack
of interference was also due to politics. The field of physics in the cold war was
considered by the soviet union extremely important because during the cold war, one of
the things that occurred with the Soviet Union and US was something called the race for
space. This involved both countries attempting to come up with latest rockets, missiles
and battle like technology, attempting to get ahead of their enemies. Because physics
was seen as the important field in this development, it was the area that Soviet did not
want to touch because of its importance. It’s because of politics, the connection is
As we have seen by this time Science and Technology in Dictatorship, Science and
technology can be seen in democracy as well.
Science, Technology and Ideology in the United States: The Trial of Robert
Oppenheimer was a physicist; he had studied in most prestigious universities of the
world. He was so brilliant that he was in fact from very few people who could
understand the work of someone like Einstein. In early days of his life, Oppenheimer
like many at the time was quite sympathetic to ideas associated with communism and
socialism. This was true in 1920s and 1930s where these ideas were floating in
American Society. Socialist or communist principles suggested creating an egalitarian or
equal world and these in 1930s were popular in US because of greater divide b/w rich
and the poor and a greater resentment that rich getting richer and poor suffering as a
result. Oppenheimer will play the biggest role in the Manhattan project which was
instrumental to its success. Many scientists who worked on this project felt guilt and
remorse when came to know that US was going to drop these bombs on Japanese,
Oppenheimer was not one of them. He was a few people to urge the govt. to pursue this
course. As a result he was rewarded for his efforts in ww2, he will become the director
of advance studies at Princeton University but more importantly he was also going to be
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