Biography of Famous Russian Scientist T.D. Lysenko Part 2

About the famous Russian scientist T.D. Lysenko, biography and history of the man.

T. D. LYSENKO (1898- ).

Lysenko still had Stalin's ear, and so he kept on misinforming the leader as to the state of science in the U.S.S.R. By 1950, Lysenko's cult was supreme. He had been given honors, titles, had had statues erected to him, and someone had even written a folk song about him. All this despite the fact that he had actually produced nothing extraordinary.

Just what were Lysenko's "theories?" They were evidenced in a hodgepodge of experiments without system or controls. He had truckloads of soil moved from place to place and had thousands of farmers growing a wide variety of grains in the hope of obtaining a revolutionary hybrid. An occasional result that looked promising--a new wheat for example--usually was disappointing when made into flour and baked into bread. Tastewise, it would prove a failure. Laboratory experts who ventured an opinion were ignored. After all, if it was not Lysenko's own idea, he would not receive credit for any consequent success.

When Khrushchev became the leader of the U.S.S.R., Lysenko remained a favorite. He was Khrushchev's kind of "earthy" man. Then, in 1961, science cracked the genetic code. It discovered the mechanism of protein synthesis and self-reproduction of hereditary macro-molecules. The letters "DNA" became known to everyone.

By 1962, the global press was heralding the new breakthrough. In Russia, though, it was almost impossible to publish anything about it. Finally, the small group of legitimate scientists still left found a way. They began slipping genetic articles into periodicals devoted to chemistry, physics, or mathematics. Gradually the nation's lag in biology became all too obvious. Pressure was put on authorities. Scientists asked, "Can we let the capitalistic nations get ahead of us?"

It worked. In 1962, a commission investigated the state of biologic research in the country--which meant Lysenko's empire was threatened. His superb cows, it was found, were not the result of his clever breeding techniques, but the result of secret culling. A grove of specimen trees was found to be located in a patch of moist soil, unlike the dry ground around it. Other endeavors were also exposed as contrived showpieces--ones that had cost the Government thousands of rubles.

On October 14, 1964, Khrushev's fate--and that of his economic and agricultural policies--was determined in the Kremlin. He was out of power. And so was Lysenko. When Lysenko was dismissed as director of the Institute on Genetics, he retreated to his farm. No reference to him was made in the press. His statues were quietly removed. The folk song about him was relegated to yesterday's hit parade.

A new era began with the U.S.S.R.'s entry into the space age, and into other advanced realms of science. The fact that an ignorant fraud had controlled the U.S.S.R.'s progress in science for 27 years is nearly forgotten now. In time people will think it was too bizarre to have happened.

But, of course, it did.

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