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Perhaps the most well-known scientist in the volume is Andrei Sakharov, a leading light in the Soviet hydrogen-bomb programme who faced enormous adversity in maintaining his commitment to freedom from oppression. But the benefits and there were many material ones of such an honour were often outweighed by the increased visibility it bestowed. This is not a new notion, however, as other historians of Soviet science including Alexei Kojevnikov, Ethan Pollock and Nikolai Krementsov have also explored the spaces within which Soviet scientists operated and found surprising agency in particular cases, for example in promoting their own careers.

Although much has been written about the history of Soviet science, in the Western imagination the topic remains opaque, remote and most importantly hemmed in by a simplistic dichotomy of good versus evil.

An important thread running through the narrative is one of identity. The principal theme of the book — one that is implicit within the individual biographies, but never articulated as such — is the relationship between scientist and state.

Some of their names will be familiar to physicists and chemists in the West: The biographies are not simply chronologies of data but rather fully formed representations of the lives of these extraordinary men.

The principal theme of the book is the relationship between scientist and state All of the men profiled here did their primary research in nuclear physics, low-temperature physics or chemistry.

Many, including the condensed-matter physicist Peter Kapitza, resisted. All of the men profiled here did their primary research in nuclear physics, low-temperature physics or chemistry. CISAC Although much has been written about the history of Soviet science, in the Western imagination the topic remains opaque, remote and most importantly hemmed in by a simplistic dichotomy of good versus evil. Most strikingly, almost all of them were involved with the Soviet atomic-bomb programme and later with the development of thermonuclear weapons in some way.

Among Westerners, Sakharov has often served as a kind of blank slate upon which to impose binary expectations of the lone hero versus all-encompassing evils of Communism, but historians of Soviet science have shown that such formulations are simplistic at best and misleading at worst. Through sequential chapters, each typically dedicated to a single person, Hargittai ably weaves together a longer narrative about the ways in which Soviet scientists negotiated their relationship with a repressive state apparatus.

Stalin’s scientists

The science is rendered in clear language, rarely obfuscated by jargon. In his emotionally resonant book Buried Glory , Istvan Hargittai, a well-known Hungarian chemist and prolific writer of popular books on science, adds depth to this picture by bringing to light the biographies of more than a dozen Soviet scientists.

To be a scientist, especially one with membership in the hallowed halls of the Academy of Sciences, was to be one of the chosen elite. Soviet industrial managers were often quite willing to suspend their deep prejudices in the service of larger national goals, especially if these goals were related to security. Many of the men who appear in the book were Jewish, exemplifying the proportionally large number of Russian Jews who were members of the post-revolutionary Intelligentsia, and especially the scientific and technical Intelligentsia.

As Hargittai shows, the latter approach was very difficult given the enormous importance the Bolsheviks placed on science as a tool of nation-building.