Sociocultural specifics of the formation of molecular biology in the USSR

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameVoprosy istorii estestvoznaniia i tekhniki
EditionVolume 39 4

The paper reviews social history of molecular biology in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s when this new discipline was in the making in this country. Based on the archive materials from the Institute of Molecular Biology, V. A. Engelhardt’s fonds in the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, minutes of the meetings of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, recollections and memoires of contemporaries, and materials of resolutions of Politburo of the Central Committee of RKP(b) / VKP(b) / KPSS (Communist Party of the USSR), concerned with the Academy of Sciences, the influence of political and economic situation in the USSR on this process is reviewed as well as particular features of the new science’s institutionalization. The factors that caused the differences in the historical pathways of molecular biology in the USSR and in the West are analyzed. The factor that had the greatest impact was a longtime supremacy of T. D. Lysenko and his ideas in Soviet biology, which led to a sharp decrease in the number of researchers who could have potentially engaged in the studies on molecular biology and created difficulties for the institutionalization of these studies. The latter is illustrated by an example of the complicated history of the Institute of Molecular Biology of the USSR Academy of Sciences that in the first few years of its existence had to bear the name of the Institute of Radiation and Physicochemical Biology of the USSR Academy of Sciences as radiation and physical research was free from Lysenkoist criticisms and could serve as a cover for the studies on molecular biology. Overcoming the consequences of reaction in biology and the latter’s revival occurred with the support of the Academy of Sciences in the person of its full members A. N. Nesmeyanov, N. N. Semenov, I. V. Kurchatov, M. M. Shemyakin, P. L. Kapitsa, and V. A. Engelhardt.

Keywordshistory of molecular biology, Institute of Molecular Biology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of Radiation and Physicochemical Biology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, V. A. Engelhardt, A. N. Nesmeyanov, W. Weaver
Publication date23.12.2018
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