- A theory put forth by a Russian plant-breeder named Trofim Denisovich Lysenko [1898-1976] during the Lenin/Stalin years that served to stifle the progress of genetics in the Soviet Union. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of the doctrine of acquired characteristics, a form of Lamarckism. (According to the earlier doctrine of Lamarck, evolution occurs because organisms can inherit traits acquired by their ancestors. Giraffes can only survive by eating leaves high up on trees so they stretch their necks to reach the leaves and this stretching of the neck is passed on to later generations.) Lysenko was president (1938-56, 1961-62) of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science and directed (1940-65) the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. His ideas were accepted as gospel until after the death of Joseph Stalin. They are now rejected.
* * *Ly·sen·ko·ism lə-'seŋ-kō-.iz-əm n a biological doctrine asserting the fundamental influence of somatic and environmental factors on heredity in contradiction of orthodox genetics called also MichurinismLy·sen·ko lə-'seŋ-kō Trofim Denisovich (1898-1976)Soviet biologist and agronomist. Lysenko was the virtual dictator of biology in the Soviet Union from the 1930s through the early 1960s. He was Director of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. from 1940 to 1965. His biological theories came to be officially adopted and mandated throughout the Soviet Union despite their virtually total rejection elsewhere. He attacked Mendelian genetics and advocated a revised form of Lamarckism, the doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. He denied the existence of genes and plant hormones and asserted that all parts of an organism have a role in heredity. He held that the application of his genetic theories would result in the development of new types of crops and increased agricultural production. In the face of overwhelming scientific challenges and the ultimate loss of political support, he was stripped of all authority in 1965 and his doctrines were repudiated.
Medical dictionary. 2011.