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Trofim Denisovich Lysenko referred to himself as a Michurinist, though his science had reasonably little to do with Michurin's scientific philosophy (Michurin was a self-proclaimed Darwinist). The term Lysenkoism was coined not by himself or his comrades, but rather by the faction of Soviet science that opposed him during the 1930s through the 1950s and after. The term may at times be seen referring to similar instances in which the lines between science and politics are blurred, or in which political matters interfere with the rightful operation of the scientific method in order to produce a more agreeable result.

During the infancy of the 20th century movement in genetics and genetic applications in agronomy, and during the high years of the Stalinist personality cult, T.D. Lysenko won Stalin's favor by denouncing genetics as a bourgeois science, perpetuated by Western fascist ideals of inequality and genetic superiority. He reintroduced the Lamarckist principle that acquired characteristics may be passed to an organism's offspring through some sort of innate and invisible mechanism of life (which he never made any attempt to justify or clarify), and not through the 'idealistic' concept of the genetic molecule.

In order to support his theory he performed an experiment upon a single wheat plant, which he exposed to cold during a certain period of its gestation, supposedly transforming its offspring from the original spring variety into a winter variety. The experiment was performed upon a single plant. The results were not reproducible by anyone, yet the story was on the front page of many metropolitan newspapers.

Early in his career, Lysenko produced a method of seed preparation designed to increase yield of seeds planted off-season, which was later adopted throughout the Soviet Union's communal farms for several years. He failed to note (or failed to realize) that this process had been tried and noted in the 19th century, and that it was generally inefficient for any kind of widespread use, due to the need for the seeds to be soaked under precise conditions, lest they be ruined. Significant yield increases were noted by each individual farm, and yet, overall yields dropped tremendously during the period. The system of yield reports allowed for massive falsification, and as no individual farm wanted to deal with the results of failure (nor did they want to denounce Lysenko or his system--there were by this time hundreds of individuals in prison or mental asylums who had done the same), yields which did not exist were reported. As a result, the system was declared a total success. It was, however, suddenly forgotten in the years surrounding World War Two, when traditional methods came back into use. No one made any note of this. The mistake was essentially "forgotten" by everyone, Lysenko included.

There was massive scientific resistance to Lysenkoism, but it was treated as the attempt to indoctrinate Westernism into Soviet culture, and to sabotage the agronomy of the nation. Over time, many scientists (many with no formal backing in science--Lysenko had very little, himself) discovered that they could earn well-paid official government posts in science by writing articles in support of Lysenkoism. There were dozens of similar 'discoveries' to that of Lysenko, including reports of breeding rye from wheat, robins from crows, and so-forth. None were founded, none were reproducible by any reputable source.

From the internal viewpoint, the Soviet public thought that science in the USSR was at the forefront of the world. While everyone was fooling around with Drosophilia (which were destroyed from Soviet stock on the mandate of Stalin, by the way, as a part of the illegalization of study in genetics), Soviet scientists were miraculously breeding wheat from rye, dogs from cats, Buicks from frogs, or whatever disreputable scientists looking to profit from the personality cult could dream of. Which, to the international (and even much of the domestic) scientific world was of course laughable.

With the death of Stalin, Kruschev continued to support Lysenko, but immediately upon the resign of Kruschev, articles in favor of genetics began to achieve circulation (and "immediately" is used with its full literal meaning--the first such article was posted within hours of Kruschev's resign). However, a great deal of damage had already been done to Soviet agronomy and science in general, due to the indoctrination of all new scientists, doctors, and breeders in the "new" methods of Lysenkoism. Thousands had learned in primary and secondary school to believe in Lysenkoism, and for that reason some elements of the philosophy lingered well into the 70s and 80s, and even beyond.

While Lysenko is viewed by history primarily as an opportunistic charlatan, it seems likely that, considering his lack of formal education and eagerness to believe in and support the Communist philosophy (as it existed in the USSR at the time), he believed in his theory to such an extent that everything he did "proved" its validity, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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