Loren Graham

discusses

Lysenko's Ghost:
Epigenetics and Russia

This event includes a book signing

Date

Apr
22
Friday
April 22, 2016
3:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes LOREN GRAHAM, Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at MIT, for a discussion of his book Lysenko's Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia.

About Lysenko's Ghost

The Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko became one of the most notorious figures in twentieth-century science after his genetic theories were discredited decades ago. Yet some scientists, even in the West, now claim that discoveries in the field of epigenetics prove that he was right after all. Seeking to get to the bottom of Lysenko’s rehabilitation in certain Russian scientific circles, Loren Graham reopens the case, granting his theories an impartial hearing to determine whether new developments in molecular biology validate his claims.

In the 1930s Lysenko advanced a “theory of nutrients” to explain plant development, basing his insights on experiments which, he claimed, showed one could manipulate environmental conditions such as temperature to convert a winter wheat variety into a spring variety. He considered the inheritance of acquired characteristics—which he called the “internalization of environmental conditions”—the primary mechanism of heredity. Although his methods were slipshod and his results were never duplicated, his ideas fell on fertile ground during a time of widespread famine in the Soviet Union.

Recently, a hypothesis called epigenetic transgenerational inheritance has suggested that acquired characteristics may indeed occasionally be passed on to offspring. Some biologists dispute the evidence for this hypothesis. Loren Graham examines these arguments, both in Russia and the West, and shows how, in Russia, political currents are particularly significant in affecting the debates.

Praise

This book adds valuable new insights into the current debates concerning elements of the newly emerging field of epigenetics and its connections to the older debates about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, especially in the context of Russia and the theories of Lysenko. Graham is in command of the materials throughout and in many cases he is one of the few who knows the materials at hand. —Everett Mendelsohn, Harvard University

A thoughtful, historically grounded, and engaging commentary on current Russian perspectives on Lysenko and his legacy in the context of recent developments in epigenetics and Russian politics and culture. —Daniel Todes, Johns Hopkins University

Loren Graham
Loren Graham

Loren Graham

Loren Graham is Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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