Trofim Lysenko Biography

Trofim Lysenko, a controversial figure in the field of biology, reigned over Soviet biology for decades with his theories aimed at improving agricultural productivity. Influenced by horticulture exponent Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, Lysenko denounced Mendelian Genetics and formulated ‘Lysenkoism-Michurinism’. His research on plant breeding, particularly his method of vernalization, proved beneficial to Soviet agriculture, which had suffered from extreme cold weather conditions and scarcity of winter snow. Despite facing criticism for using a method that had long been used by peasants, Lysenko gained the support of politician Joseph Stalin, which propelled his success in the field of biology. However, as new theories emerged, Lysenko eventually lost his hold on Soviet genetics. Explore the life and works of this renowned agronomist to learn more.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 78
  • Biologists
  • Russian Men
  • Died on: November 20, 1976
  • Place of death: Moscow

Childhood & Early Life

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was born in 1898 in Poltava Oblast, Ukraine. His parents were Denis Lysenko and Oksana Lysenko, and they belonged to the peasant class. Lysenko attended the Poltava Primary School for Horticulture and Gardening, and later the Uman School for Horticulture, from which he graduated in 1921. During this time, he became involved with experimental work at stations in Belaya Tserkov and Kiev Oblast. He then attended the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, where he published articles on sugar beet grafting and tomato breeding.

Career

After completing his studies, Lysenko worked at an experimental station in Azerbaijan, conducting agricultural research. This research led to his groundbreaking paper on vernalization in 1928. The method of vernalization described in his paper was highly acclaimed as it helped address the scarcity of snow in winter, which was destroying seeds of winter-wheat. Lysenko then moved to the Gyandzha Experimental Station until 1929. From 1929 to 1934, he worked at the Ukrainian All-Union Institute of Selection and Genetics in Odessa. In 1935, he became the science director of the All-Union Institute of Selection and Genetics and later the director of the institution. During this time, he advocated for the agricultural theories of Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin and rejected Mendelian genetics. This led to the formation of the scientific movement known as “Lysenkoism,” through which Lysenko gained political control over agriculture and genetics in the Soviet Union. In 1940, he joined the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. as the Director of the Institute of Genetics and remained in office for the next twenty-five years. He also became the president of the V.I. Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. However, after the death of Stalin in 1953, Lysenko’s influence began to decline as other scientists presented better solutions to agricultural problems and denounced his theories.

Legacy

In 1965, Lysenko was removed from his position at the Institute of Genetics, marking the end of his career as an experimental scientist. Despite the rejection of his theories by other scientists, his ideas continued to be used in China. Lysenko is known for defying the Mendelian Inheritance phenomenon and supporting Michurin’s theory on genetics, which he termed “Lysenkoism” or “Lysenko-Michurinism.” He also made significant contributions to hybridization, the process of creating new plant breeds by combining two parent species. Lysenko’s scientific theories have faced criticism and accusations of him abusing his power as the director of the Institute of Genetics. He was accused of restraining other scientists from developing their research in order to maintain his own power. Lysenko died on November 20, 1976, in Moscow, and is buried in the Kuntsevo Cemetery.

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