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The roots of ‘Michurinism': Transformist biology and acclimatization as currents in the Russian life sciences

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Abstract:

By now, the story of T. D. Lysenko's phantasmagoric career in the Soviet life sciences is widely familiar. While Lysenko's attempts to identify I. V. Michurin, the horticulturist, as the source of his own inductionist ideas about heredity are recognized as a gambit calculated to enhance his legitimacy, the real roots of those ideas are still shrouded in mystery. This paper suggests those roots may be found in a tradition in Russian biology that stretches back to the 1840s—a tradition inspired by the doctrines of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Etienne and Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. The enthusiastic reception of those doctrines in Russia and of their practical application—acclimatization of exotic life forms—gave rise to the durable scientific preoccupation with transforming nature which now seems implicated in creating the context for Lysenko's successful bid to become an arbiter of the biological sciences.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00033798500200191

Affiliations: Russian Research Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138, U.S.A.

Publication date: 1985-05-01

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