HPS Colloquium. Michael Gordin - Looking Askance at the Lysenko Affair: Three Approaches


Location: 231 DeBartolo

Michael Gordin - "Looking Askance at the Lysenko Affair: Three Approaches"

Michael Gordin


The history of the control over Soviet genetics assumed by Trofim D. Lysenko — and hence dubbed “Lysenkoism” in the West but never in the Soviet Union, which it was always “Michurinism” — has been recounted so often that the historiography has acquired a rigid, stylized character. This narrative emphasizes political intervention in the sciences, perceived pathologies of the Soviet science system, and a hagiographic martyrology. In contrast, this presentation unfolds three perspectives from outside the conventional narrative of the “Lysenko Affair” with the hopes of opening up new angles on the most notorious episode of “pseudoscience” in the twentieth century. The first explores how Lysenko’s theories came to be variously framed in the United States as violating a series of norms of science in the mid- to late 1940s. The second uses the two distinct translations of Lysenko’s Heredity and Its Variability into English to examine the ways in which the Soviet state wanted to present Michurinism abroad. And, finally, it turns to how Lysenko’s reign was viewed within the Soviet Union after his fall from power in 1965, but before his death in 1976; that is, what did it mean to look at Lysenko the man when there was no more “Lysenkoism”?