SOVIET SCIENCE by Zhores A. Medvedev
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Biochemist, radiobiologist, and gerontologist Zhores Medvedev's personal history of dissidence is mentioned almost in passing in this excellent and illuminating survey of Soviet science from the Revolution to the present. Medvedev's downfall came in 1973 when he was permitted to visit London's National Institute for Medical Research--but not permitted to return home; his Soviet citizenship was cancelled by special decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium. Clearly politics has always interpenetrated science in a Communist regime, and Medvedev, to his considerable credit, manages to present a coherent picture of the greater degree and subtlety of present-day political interpenetration of the scientific hierarchy. A truly Byzantine labyrinth of committees, divisions, ministries, and academies determines the fate of the budding candidate for admission to university as well as the eminent scientist's quest for degrees beyond the Ph.D. It is also to Medvedev's credit that he is even-handed and objective. The quality of science in Russia today in many fields is on a par with the West. In other areas the period of dÉtente has meant a move toward integration and cooperation with the West which Medvedev feels is a hopeful sign for liberalization. Indeed, his is the optimism of the man of science who sees in that discipline the source of reason and constant questioning which can effect improvements for mankind. (This intellectual stance, he feels, also explains why scientists in Russia represent a major pool of dissidents.) These conclusions he draws after chronicling the horrors of the Stalin regime, the apotheosis of Lysenko, and the Khrushchevera thaw--after years wasted in the attempt to Russian-ize Western technology. Two interesting appendices document a major radioactive waste disaster in the South Urals, and illustrate the present low state of human genetics in Russian science. The quality of expert first-hand knowledge, keen intelligence, and critical reporting commend this book to historians, scientists, and educators as well as to the general reader.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1978
Publisher: Norton