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Stalin and the Scientists

A History of Triumph and Tragedy 1905-1953
Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
Length: 16 hrs and 59 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

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Summary

An epic story of courage, genius and terrible folly, this is the first history of how the Soviet Union's scientists became both the glory and the laughingstock of the intellectual world.

Simon Ings weaves together what happened when a handful of impoverished and underemployed graduates, professors and entrepreneurs, as well as collectors and charlatans, bound themselves to a failing government to create a world superpower. And he shows how Stalin's obsessions derailed a great experiment in 'rational government'.

©2016 Simon Ings (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Lively, funny, often tragic story of USSR science

This is a very engaging book, which is by turns funny and tragic, taking full advantage of the inherent absurdity of some of its subject matter and mining some of the more obscure and unusual literature of the period for its source material. It focuses very heavily on physics, genetics and behavioural science, which makes the narrative feel a little unbalanced occasionally, with the second half of the book being based almost solely on the impact of the biologist and agronomist Trofim Lysenko - his story is fascinating but the strong emphasis on this one particular individual and his circle for such a large span of the narrative does grate slightly. It is clear why the author has chosen to do this, however, as it provides some of the clearest examples of how political considerations created a ludicrous scientific orthodoxy which actually held back scientific progress, reflecting the personal beliefs and foibles of Stalin himself. The book also benefits from being vividly and characterfully performed, with a generally excellent command of Russian pronunciation, by Barnaby Edwards.

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Too focused on Biology and genetics...

Too focused on Biology and genetics, using mainly the straightforward case of Lysenko, not really justifying the other half of the title ("triumph").