The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century
  • The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century
  • The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century

The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century

by Peter Pringle
     
 

"In The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, Peter Pringle recreates the extraordinary life and tragic end of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century." "In a drama of love, revolution, and war that rivals Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, Pringle tells the story of a young Russian scientist, Nikolai Vavilov, who had a dream of ending hunger and famine in the world.… See more details below

Overview

"In The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, Peter Pringle recreates the extraordinary life and tragic end of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century." "In a drama of love, revolution, and war that rivals Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, Pringle tells the story of a young Russian scientist, Nikolai Vavilov, who had a dream of ending hunger and famine in the world. Vavilov's plan would use the emerging science of genetics to breed super plants that could grow anywhere, in any climate, in sandy deserts and freezing tundra, in drought and flood. He would launch botanical expeditions to find these vanishing genes, overlooked by early farmers ignorant of Mendel's laws of heredity. He called it a "mission for all humanity."" "To the leaders of the young Soviet state, Vavilov's dream fitted perfectly into their larger scheme for a socialist utopia. Lenin supported the adventurous Vavilov, a handsome and seductive young professor, as he became an Indiana Jones, hunting lost botanical treasures on five continents. In a former tsarist palace in what is now St. Petersburg, Vavilov built the world's first seed bank, a quarter of a million specimens, a magnificent living museum of plant diversity that was the envy of scientists everywhere and remains so today." "But when Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin took over, Vavilov's dream turned into a nightmare. This son of science was from a bourgeois background, the class of society most despised and distrusted by the Bolsheviks. The new cadres of comrade scientists taunted and insulted him, and Stalin's dreaded secret police built up false charges of sabotage and espionage." "Stalin's collectivization of farmland caused chaos in Soviet food production, andmillions died in widespread famine. Vavilov's master plan for improving Soviet crops was designed to work over decades, not a few years, and he could not meet Stalin's impossible demands for immediate results." "In Stalin's Terror of the 1930s, Russian geneticists were systematically repressed in favor of the peasant horticulturalist Trofim Lysenko, with his fraudulent claims and speculative theories. Vavilov was the most famous victim of this purge, which set back Russian biology by a generation and caused the country untold harm. He was sentenced to death, but unlike Galileo, he refused to recant his beliefs and, in the most cruel twist, this humanitarian pioneer scientist was starved to death in the gulag." Pringle uses newly opened Soviet archives, including Vavilov's secret police file, official correspondence, vivid expedition reports, previously unpublished family letters and diaries, and the reminiscences of eyewitnesses to bring us this intensely human story of a brilliant life cut short by anti-science demagogues, ideology, censorship, and political expedience.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743264983
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
05/13/2008
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Ukraine, August 6, 1940 9

1 Moscow, December 1905 13

2 The Petrovka and Katya 22

3 In Darwin's Library 35

4 Moscow, Summer 1916 43

5 On the Roof of the World, 1916 51

6 Revolution and Civil War 60

7 The Gardener of Kozlov 73

8 Lenochka 80

9 Petrograd: City of Ravens 88

10 Ingots of Platinum 96

11 Afghanistan, 1924 108

12 Abyssinia, 1926 119

13 The Barefoot Scientist 130

14 The Great Break 143

15 State Security File 006854 154

16 The Passionate Patriot 160

17 A Modest Compromise 168

18 The Red Professor 175

19 The Last Expedition 180

20 Thunder and Dragons 190

21 The Lysenko Offensive 198

22 The showdown 206

23 The Terror 215

24 Into the Pyre 223

25 Comrade Philosophers 232

26 The Arrest 242

27 The Interrogation 253

28 Return to Saratov 268

29 "Oleg, Where Are You?" 280

Epilogue: Vavilov's Ghost 290

Main Events in the Life of Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov 307

Sources and Archives 313

Notes 317

Acknowledgments 347

Index 351

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