The American response to Lysenkoism took place at a crucial moment in the evolving relationship between science and the public. Like many professional scientific organizations in the early Cold War, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) resisted involvement in political issues. In contrast to similar societies in the physical sciences, however, the geneticists' silence cannot be explained solely by the fear of financial or political repercussions. Rather, the GSA's reluctance to engage in political discussion reflected an ongoing debate within the scientific community on the proper role for professional societies in political controversy. Those geneticists who did become embroiled in the controversy did so as individuals rather than as emissaries of the profession. Geneticists H. J. Muller, L. C. Dunn, and Theodosius Dobzhansky attempted to reach the public through a variety of outlets, including books, magazines, newspapers, and the radio, but their interventions were shaped by their individual personal and political commitments. The GSA, in contrast, attempted to combat the spread of Lysenkoism with the help of a public relations firm and a Golden Jubilee celebration of the rediscovery of Mendel's laws. The messy story of the American response to the Lysenko crisis demonstrates the limits of scientists' political involvement during the early Cold War.
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Research Article| February 01 2010
What Does It Mean to Go Public? The American Response to Lysenkoism, Reconsidered
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2010) 40 (1): 48–78.
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Audra J. Wolfe; What Does It Mean to Go Public? The American Response to Lysenkoism, Reconsidered. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 February 2010; 40 (1): 48–78. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2010.40.1.48
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