Trofim Denisovich Lysenko

Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich (lĭsĕngˈkō, Rus. trəfēmˈ dyĭnyēˈsəvĭch lĭsyĕnˈkə) [key], 1898–1976, Russian agronomist. As president of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences he became the scientific and administrative leader of Soviet agriculture. In 1937 he was made a member of the Supreme Soviet and head of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He first became known for his process (vernalization) of moistening and refrigerating the seed of spring wheat, thereby reputedly imparting to it characteristics of winter wheat. He became the leader of the Soviet school of genetics that opposed the theories of heredity accepted by most geneticists and supported the doctrine that characteristics acquired through environmental influences are inherited (see acquired characteristics). Lysenko rejected neo-Mendelism and was a disciple of the Russian horticulturist I. V. Michurin. Lysenko's theories were offered as Marxist orthodoxy and won the official support (1948) of the Soviet Central Committee. However, they were severely criticized after the death of Stalin in 1953, and in 1956 his resignation as president of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences was announced. In 1965 he was removed as director of the Institute of Genetics, which resulted in the return of Soviet biological thought to the mainstream of international scientific ideas. Lysenko stated his theories of inheritance of acquired characteristics in Heredity and Its Variability (1943, tr. 1946) and in The Science of Biology Today (1948, tr. 1948).

See J. Huxley, Heredity: East and West (1949, repr. 1969); Z. A. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko (tr. 1969); D. Joravsky, The Lysenko Affair (1970); V. N. Soyfer, Lysenko and the Tragedy of Soviet Science (1994).

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