Thursday, February 7, 2008

GDoS: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko

Possibly the best known Russian Douchebag of Science outside of Russia, Trofim Lysenko spent his entire life studying biology without getting the first clue about anything. He came to prominence in the early 1930's, rising through the ranks of the Soviet Doucheocracy through political backbiting, calumny, slander, libel and general bitchiness. By 1940 he was director of the Institute of Genetics at the USSR's Academy of Sciences, charged with improving the productivity of Soviet agriculture. By 1948, this is true, it was illegal to scientifically dissent from the crackpot patchwork of scientific hoo-ha that came to be known as Lysenkoism.

So what was Lysenkoism? Lysenko rejected not only Darwinian evolution, which was obviously true even in those days, but also Mendelian genetics. To put this in perspective for non-biologists, that is roughly equivalent to a doctor believing that sick people do not exist. Also, the doctor sentences his enemies to death by starvation.

Lysenko believed instead in a variant of Lamarkian evolution. This was more or less the idea that you can make crops grow better by yelling at them. There was also something about soaking seeds in snow to make them grow better in the winter. Lysenko was given his own journal, The Bulletin of Vernalization, to publish his breakthrough research. In later years, presumably, many Soviet citizens would try to eat the pages of that journal.

Anyhoo, the world learned its lesson from Lysenko, and to this day there has never again been political interference in the scientific process. But we shall remember him forevermore as - a Great Douchebag of Science.

This man had no clue.

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