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

Atlantic. Feb. 2017. 528p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780802125989. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780802189868. HIST
In examining the historical development of Soviet science before and after the Russian Revolution of 1917, novelist and science writer Ings (The Eye) focuses on the many ideological controversies that shaped the discipline during that era. With only a few introductory chapters on the transition from the Tsars to the Bolshevik Revolution, general readers may not be adequately prepared to understand the complexities given prominence in the book. There is substantial coverage of Joseph Stalin's personal and political interference in the development of science in the Soviet Union as well as the resulting controversies relating to genetics, biology, chemistry, and physics—in which Stalin established himself as the ultimate authority, often at the expense of many lives.
VERDICT With an excellent bibliography, this book is recommended for sophisticated readers who appreciate the intricacies of Russian and Soviet political and scientific controversies and the dangers they brought to a society in turmoil. Those new to the subject might do well to consider Ethan Pollock's Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars or works by science historian Loren Graham.

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