Th. Dobzhansky and the fate of the synthetic theory of evolution in the USSR

This paper is devoted to the role of the eminent Soviet-American geneticist Th. Dobzhansky in the assimilation and development of the synthetic theory of evolution in the USSR, as well as in establishing and maintaining scientific communications between Soviet and American evolutionists and geneticists. Indeed, his role was considerable: his book “Genetics and the origin of species” (1937), his articles on population genetics in the USSR, and his critique of Lysenkoism provided support to Soviet biologists in their struggle against this phenomenon while, after the end of the era of Lysenkoism, Dobzhansky applied himself to restoring genetic research in the Soviet Union. Finally, his books and papers, devoted to human evolution and philosophical problems of evolution, had a profound impact, both scientific and humanistic, on the entire sphere of evolutionary biology in the USSR. The synthetic theory of evolution was finally recognized in the USSR as a modern Darwinian evolutionary theory in the 1970s and, particularly, in the 1980s due to the efforts of many scientists, philosophers and historians of science, in particular those belonging to K. M. Zavadskii’s school. At that time Dobzhansky’s name gathered prominence in the Soviet Union, with his contribution to the evolutionary theory reflected in the secondary and tertiary school biology textbooks, popular science books and brochures, in particular, the large-circulation series of brochures published by the Znanie society. However, the historical truth about Dobzhansky and creation of the synthetic theory of evolution only became fully known to the Soviet scientific community at the very end of the Perestroika and the USSR’s very existence.


Recommended bibliographic description

, Th. Dobzhansky and the fate of the synthetic theory of evolution in the USSR, Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki [Studies in History of Science and Technology], , p.  225-245

    © Studies in the History of Science and Technology: Quarterly scientific journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2015)
    ISSN 0205-9606. Индекс 70143