Journal of the History of Biology 53 (1):105-139 (2020)

The present study analyzes specific traits of Lysenkoism dogmas as they were reflected in Soviet hydrobiology. As a case study, I use the now-forgotten productivity theory of bodies of water developed in 1940 by the Soviet hydrobiologist Vladimir I. Zhadin. Zhadin’s views on production relied on his observations of changes in the communities of riverine faunas caused by the construction of water reservoirs. The theory is of particular interest because it attempts to address the unresolved problems of that period. Some of these unsettled problems provided the foundation for the ideological debates during the dialectization period in Soviet biology of the early 1920s to mid-1930s and were influenced by Lysenkoism. Zhadin’s theory thus serves as a suitable model for identifying cognitive and ideological components in science and for the analysis of the influence of ideology on science. The analysis of Zhadin’s works shows that an attempt to separate ideologically imposed perceptions and the author’s own scientific views presents a challenging task. This can be explained by a highly efficient behavioral pattern of “protective coloration” employed by the scientist and by Zhadin’s sincere acceptance of some Lysenkoist ideas. Furthermore, I argue that the system of Lysenkoist dogmas concerning the association between an organism and its environment are in fact entirely sensible scientific principles which were taken to an extreme. The results of the study suggest a need for more careful and deeper evaluation of scientific works published during the period of the personality cult in the USSR. The “Lysenko affair” in branches of biology other than genetics is more complicated and needs further examination.
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DOI 10.1007/s10739-019-09590-5
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