Stalin and the Scientists: A History of Triumph and Tragedy, 1905–1953

Simon Ings. Atlantic Monthly, $28 (528p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2598-9
English novelist and science writer Ings (The Eye: A Natural History) takes an expansive look at scientific life in the Soviet Union from the waning years of the Russian Empire to Stalin’s death. Faced with grave challenges in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, and driven by a Marxist philosophy that envisioned a future universal science that encompassed politics and society, Soviet elites endeavored to make the Soviet Union “the world’s first scientifically run state.” These leaders embarked on an ambitious struggle to place science in “the service of society” and bring vast practical and humanitarian benefits to mankind. The pursuit of science was soon trumped by politics, ideology, and the whims of leaders, as Stalin’s “cult of personality expanded into the natural realm.” Ings sympathetically details the experiences of scientists who lived a complex, precarious, and harrowing existence as shifts in prevailing ideological winds exposed many to severe repression, including purges, arrests, and executions. The stories and anecdotes of individual scientists provide narrative bridges throughout the book, as Ings ably documents the challenges, failures, and achievements of Soviet science during this period in such areas as psychology, physiology, genetics, neuroscience, and cybernetics. Though he can be long-winded, Ings engagingly fuses history, science, and storytelling. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2016
Release date: 02/01/2017
Open Ebook - 528 pages - 978-0-8021-8986-8
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-8021-2759-4
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