Soviet science has been in the public eye for the last two decades. The dramatic confrontation of Marxist theory and genetics epitomized the dangers of Communism as a thought-controlling system. The rapid development of atomic weapons by the Soviets underlined the effectiveness of the Russian scientific task force. The flights of sputniks, luniks, laikas, cosmonauts showed the world that the party leadership had made an imaginative commitment to daring scientific ventures and that Soviet technology was discharging this commitment.

The reaction in the West was immediate. The Lysenko genetics controversy produced amazement that in a modern state, a political ideology should stifle development of a science. The Soviet weapon success showed that in the military area, science and technology often develop more rapidly in a dictatorship than in democracies. The space spectaculars of the Russians astonished the world. The alibi that Soviet success was based solely on "secrets stolen from the West" was broken. American education was made a scapegoat for the lack of American successes in space. On the basis of comparison of curricula and statistics, and as the result of superficial visits to select Soviet schools, a cry was raised that the United States was losing the "battle of the classroom." The average American became convinced that Soviet science and education were the best in the world. Our highschool curriculum was revised, new mathematics introduced. Government leaders were shaken into introducing new administrative agencies in Washington and new advisory councils in the White House. The Soviet challenge of a human flight to the moon was accepted by launching a multi- billion-dollar space program.

In the meantime, a cultural-exchange program was initiated to bring about understanding between American and Soviet scientists and to explore areas of scientific coöperation. The three Geneva Conferences on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, massive exhibits in New York and Moscow, numerous exchange visits of prominent scientists, prolonged stays by smaller numbers of younger scholars-all these brought about a better understanding between Western "capitalist culture" and the "culture of Russian Communism."

We have learned much more about each other, and now that the change in leadership in the Soviet Union has been stabilized, it seems appropriate to assess the status of Soviet science.


The United States still commands the lead in world science, and America has won the battle of the classroom. Soviet scientific accomplishments have been spotty: outstanding exploits in space; solid engineering in application of nuclear science; brilliant work in mathematics, theoretical physics and astronomy; elegant experiments in certain branches of experimental physics. But in many important areas, Soviet work is either weak or pedestrian. This is particularly true of genetics, crystal and molecular structure, modern biology and most branches of chemistry. The Soviet Union has a number of leaders in science whom any country would be proud to claim as its own, but the number is much less than in the United States. Russia is particularly weak in "first-class second-class" scientists who serve as supporting cast to the scientific stars. Women occupy nearly half the posts in research institutes, mostly on the lower rungs of the ladder, and so far none has risen to a position of importance in Soviet science. Furthermore, most of the scientific work is carried out in research institutes rather than in universities, where there is a continuous flow of young scholars. These two factors contribute to the stagnation of scientific personnel.

The research base of the Soviet Union is very narrow, confined as it is to Academy institutes and four or five major universities. This may be contrasted to the diversity of research institutions in the United States: universities, government laboratories, foundations, small colleges, large corporations and small enterprises. Physical facilities for carrying out scientific investigations in the Soviet Union are barely adequate except in a small number of prestige laboratories. Old buildings poorly adapted to laboratory use, new buildings constructed with little knowledge of the best in contemporary laboratory design, are overcrowded. Scientific equipment is either copied from American models or imported. The Soviet economy has not developed an instrument industry sufficiently alert to scientific discoveries, nor adequate to give logistic support to Russian scientists. This is in sharp contrast to the help the American scientist receives from a highly developed scientific-instrument and chemical-supply industry. Time lost in waiting for scientific tools, the repair of instruments or for crucial compounds is minimal. Support facilities of this type, and on this scale, seem to be lacking in the Soviet Union.

All this emphasizes the remarkable qualities of that small group of Soviet scientists and technologists who were able to overcome an ever-present bureaucracy and a retarded economy to startle the world with their scientific discoveries and technological advances.

The Soviet space program has been both dramatic and highly successful. It is used with great effectiveness to support the conduct of foreign affairs. The first earth satellite, the first dog flight, the first lunar satellite, the first cosmic rocket, the first hard landing on the moon and on Venus, the first human in orbit, the first view of the back of the moon, the first walk in space, the first soft landing on the moon-all these achievements indicate a well-knit organization producing a new technology. The United States is giving the Soviet space effort very good competition, but it has difficulty breaking into the province of dramatic "firsts." The American space program has been more successful in using space vehicles for scientific research and for practical applications. The discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt around the earth, the photography of Mars, the probing of Venus are evidences of sophisticated American instrumentation. The use of satellites for communication, for television-program transmission, for weather-pattern recognition, for surveillance of the earth's surface, for nuclear blasts and missile launchings is a commentary on American ability to apply new science and technology for routine practical use.

A conversation the writer had with Premier Khrushchev in August 1958 at the American Exhibit in Moscow was revealing. After describing the American accomplishments in space, I pointed out that American scientists and engineers were disturbed by the fact that their Soviet counterparts were orbiting much heavier payloads. When I predicted that the United States would soon surpass the Soviet Union in space exploration, Premier Khrushchev's quiet answer was, "The United States is a strong and powerful nation. It can accomplish anything it sets out to do. However, it has a difficult time deciding what to do. Tell me more." I then related an incident of the preceding day. A Soviet visitor asked, "Is it correct to compare the Soviet and American space accomplishments as an alarm clock to a Swiss watch?" After some hesitation I replied, "Yes it is, but we should remember that it was the Soviet alarm clock that woke America to build the Swiss watch." Premier Khrushchev's retort to the story was, "Let us not put needles into each other. Tell me more." The conversation then turned to the cost of scientific research and to coöperation and competition in science as a means of international understanding.

The competition between the two countries in space may reveal basic characteristics of their science and technology. The Soviet Union tends to produce bulky, unsophisticated vehicles, designed to perform a particular task in an efficient way. Limited objectives are attained with maximum dramatic effect. The United States designs sophisticated machines which are difficult to produce and reflect an affluence of ideas, people and matériel, which has made American space technology unwieldly and at times inefficient. Once it works out its internal problems in a democratic, competitive manner, it will produce vehicles for space as it has for the highways and the airways of the world.

The Soviet missile and space success has had a great impact on international relations. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have a large arsenal of weapons. No place on earth is safe from missile attack. There is no place to hide. For the first time, the continental United States is vulnerable. The Soviets have used dramatic space results very effectively to give the world "evidence of the strength of the Communistic system." They have timed their exploits to exert "psychological leverage" at important international conferences. Detection schemes, antimissile missiles, military space stations, constant-surveillance satellites have literally introduced a new dimension into modern warfare. Truly Soviet science and technology have awakened the world to the great potentialities of space.

Atomic science and technology is another important area of Soviet excellence. Here, as in space technology, significant military accomplishments have been attained before peacetime potential has been realized. From 1952 on, the world was periodically reminded of the Soviet accomplishments in weaponeering. Underground tests are still being carried out and undoubtedly research and development of more effective nuclear weapons are vigorously pursued. Atomic-powered submarines are being constructed, and moving pictures of Polaris-type missiles have been shown on European television screens.

The peaceful uses of atomic energy have not been neglected. The First Geneva Conference of the United Nations on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1955 clearly demonstrated the direct dependence of a nation's standard of living on its per capita production of energy. Although the development of power from nuclear energy has been slower than expected, the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom are turning increasingly to this source to satisfy the demand of growing populations and higher per capita consumption. At present the Soviet Union has a 900-megawatt capacity while the United States has more than a thousand megawatts distributed among twelve power stations. Fifteen additional power stations are under construction so that by 1970 the United States will have a 7,300-megawatt capacity, while the Soviet Union plans by then to have several thousand megawatts of power. Both countries are constructing portable reactors for remote regions, and new types of more efficient reactors are being developed. The Soviet Union has a nuclear ice-breaker Lenin, the United States a cargo ship Savannah and an aircraft carrier. Both countries have a fleet of atomic submarines. Just as in missile technology, the Soviet Union has been able to master the new atomic energy technology and to compete effectively with the United States.

In the field of power production from nuclear fusion, the situation is different. Both the Soviet Union and the United States have conceded that success is difficult. The competition and secrecy that characterized their early work have given way to coöperation and open discussion. This may be a pattern for future international coöperation in science-major countries working together on difficult problems which cannot be easily solved.

I obtained an insight into international coöperation and competition, as understood by the Soviets, at the First Geneva Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. I had told a Soviet Minister that it was good to compete in scientific fields rather than in military and economic areas. I used the Russian word konkurentsia for competition. The Soviet Minister replied, "Do not use that word! It has a bad connotation in the Soviet Union. It means getting ahead by crushing and destroying the opponent. We have a new approach to competition and a new word to designate it. The word sorevnovaniye means getting ahead by climbing on the opponent's shoulders." This statement epitomizes the Soviet concept of coexistence.


Mathematics has been an area of particular excellence in Soviet science. Deeply rooted in the glorious pre-revolutionary tradition, it has produced important results and raised the level of performance of related sciences and engineering. All branches of pure mathematics are pursued. Mathematicians dominate the Soviet scientific scene; the rectors of the Universities of Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk; the President of the Academy of Sciences; the founder and director of the science city near Novosibirsk-all are mathematicians.

The advance of Soviet science has been markedly accelerated by the readiness with which its outstanding mathematicians have applied their sophisticated analyses to scientific and engineering problems. In mathematical physics L. D. Landau, a Nobel laureate, has exerted a world- wide influence with his interpretation of low-temperature phenomena. I. Y. Tamm is another distinguished mathematical physicist who received a Nobel prize for his work in nuclear phenomena, and N. N. Bogolyubov is known for his mathematical elegance in dealing with a variety of problems in physics. M. V. Keldysh, President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, is an expert on vibrations in airplanes and missiles. Many of the leading mathematicians have been concerned with fundamentals of automation and cybernetics.

Automation is the great hope of the Communist Party leadership, faced with the problem of creating a modern industrial society with so few trained people and so many inefficient workers (which is one reason why the Soviet Union has no unemployment) . The productivity of Soviet labor, including farm workers, is very low and their product is often shoddy. Automation would permit the Soviet Union to leap-frog over the barrier of training millions of people to become the technicians a modern state requires. Automation is based on the science of cybernetics, the theory of regulation and electronic computers. Cybernetics was founded in 1948 by the late American mathematician N. Wiener and was further developed in America by J. Shannon and J. von Neumann. It is a science of communication, direction and control in machines and living organisms. During the Stalin period it was considered a capitalistic "false science;" now it is the most popular science in the Soviet Union. The latest program of the Communist Party calls for the development of "cybernetics, electronic computers and regulating devices in production processes in industry, in construction projects, in transportation, in scientific investigations, in economic planning and engineering calculations and in the realm of accounting and management."

The field of electronic computation in the United States is far ahead of that in the U.S.S.R., in both quality and quantity. The machines in the United States work faster, have a higher memory capacity and are more varied and adaptable to different tasks. They are also better designed and show higher reliability, and their electronic components more elegant. Far more numerous, they are fully incorporated into both our economy and technology and into every type of scientific investigation. On the other hand, Soviet scientists and engineers have been able to utilize effectively their strength in mathematics, logic and non-linear mechanics. They can rely on the help of their leading mathematicians to solve problems crucial to their national security: design of nuclear weapons, calculation of satellite orbits and navigation of rockets.


Chemistry has been a weak area in the Soviet scientific scene. In spite of the glorious tradition of chemistry in Imperial Russia and a brilliant outpouring of physical-chemistry research by the N. N. Semenov school before World War II, Soviet chemistry today is pedestrian. The exception is electrochemistry, so important for the development of the portable energy source of the future-the fuel cell. Here the work of A. N. Frumkin has been preëminent for several decades.

In recent years the Communist Party has been placing great emphasis on "big chemistry" as one of the three "material-technical bases" for Communism. (The other two are automation and electrification of the country.) Fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides are now more necessary than tractors and combines if the party is to solve the perennial Soviet food problem. Petrochemicals from abundant oil resources must be turned into synthetic fibers, plastics, elastomers (elastic substances), both for industry and for general household use. The fabrication of plastics is much faster and easier than that of metals, which are often in short supply. The Soviet consumer is developing esthetic discrimination as a reaction to many decades of drab functionalism. With lagging agriculture and limited livestock, consumer demands can be satisfied only by synthetic chemistry. Planning in this area has been handicapped by the poor contacts between Soviet chemistry and that in the United States. N. N. Semenov, the leader of Soviet chemistry, has never visited America, where chemical engineering and industries are so highly developed. The Soviet Union has only a small number of chemical research laboratories, the curriculum in chemistry is antiquated, and in undergraduate and graduate studies the proportion of women is very high. Biochemistry-the most exciting science giving us an understanding of the processes of life-is sadly underdeveloped in the Soviet Union.

Physics, on the other hand, is a strong area. Three times during the last six years Soviet physicists received Nobel prizes in physics: P. A. Cherenkov, Tamm and I. M. Frank (1958), for the discovery and interpretation of radiation given off by particles travelling with velocity greater than light; L. D. Landau (as noted above) for his theoretical work in the behavior of matter at very low temperature; N. G. Basov and A. M. Prok-horov (together with C. Townes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for their theoretical prediction of the laser. During the last 20 years 15 Americans received Nobel awards in physics (30 in other fields of science and medicine). The Nobel prize awards to Soviet physicists reflect their particular excellence in certain branches of nuclear physics, low-temperature research and radio-electronics. In the latter field, Y. K. Zavoyski discovered in 1946 that certain materials, when placed in a magnetic field, absorb radio waves. This phenomenon of electron spin resonance, together with nuclear magnetic resonance (discovered by F. Bloch and E. Purcell in the U. S.), is widely used in almost every science. It is of interest to note that the Soviet discovery was immediately and widely exploited in the West before the Soviet scientists began to use it. Even at present the magnetic resonance instruments made in the Soviet Union are inferior to those produced in the United States and in Japan.

Radioastronomy is keenly pursued in the Soviet Union. The radiation emitted by the sun, the planets, galactic and outer-galactic space is detected, analyzed and used for understanding the structure of heavenly bodies.

Geologists have been mainly concerned with the explanation of the geological structure of the vast reaches of the Soviet Union. Geophysical methods have been utilized for mapping mineral resources, investigating the origin of earthquakes and detecting atomic blasts. Preliminary work has been carried out on boring through the crust of the earth, a project similar to the American "Mohole." Geochemical research with modern instrumentation is actively pursued. Oceanographic research reflects the Soviets' heavy dependence on fish for its protein supply. Exploration of the Arctic, so important to the Soviet Union, has been supplemented in the last decade with continuous Antarctic investigations.


Biology has suffered most from the impact of Marxist philosophy on science. During the last decades of Imperial Russia and almost to the start of World War I, biology was a productive science in Russia. In descriptive and systematic botany and zoölogy, anatomy, cytology, histology, embryology and physiology, Russian scholars made significant contributions. Soil bacteriology was particularly outstanding. Viruses were discovered by D. Ivanovski in 1892, and I. P. Pavlov made the "conditioned reflex" a well- recognized concept throughout the world.

In the period between the two world wars genetics was developing rapidly and the Soviet geneticists attracted scholars from all over the world to come to work with them. However, just before World War II, N. I. Vavilov, their distinguished leader, incurred the displeasure of the Kremlin leaders and disappeared to an unknown death. In 1948, Lysenko baited the followers of Vavilov into public identification with "Western" genetics. They were then summarily crushed by an ex cathedra pronouncement by the Central Committee declaring Marxist genetics to be the "truth of the land." Genetics as we know it in the West disappeared from the research laboratories and textbooks of the Soviet Union. Lysenko dominated the biological sciences and agricultural research in Russia, and his influence extended well beyond the life sciences. Marxist philosophy battled relativity, cosmology, quantum mechanics, basic concepts of physics, cybernetics and the theory of chemical bonding. This Marxist inquisition continued through the period of Stalin terror, then abated in the Khrushchev period. The forces of reason within the Soviet scientific leadership gradually confined Lysenko's influence to a small group of research institutes and eliminated him from key committees. Genetics and molecular biology began to develop under the protection of powerful nuclear physicists who were particularly interested in the effects of radiation on inheritance. Scientists and engineers were intrigued by the relation between information theory, molecular structure and the genetic code. Work in molecular biology was encouraged. During the Khrushchev period several attempts were made to test Lysenko's strength in party circles, but they showed that he still had Khrushchev's backing.

In the meantime, genetics as recognized outside the Soviet Union was cautiousty introduced to Soviet scientists and students through translations of Western treatises on biology and genetics. On January 25, 1965, Lysenko was accused in the Literaturnaya Gazetta of mismanaging the model farm, Gorki Leninski, near Moscow, and of making false claims that mineral-manure fertilizer is three times more effective than plain manure, and that crossing of Russian cows with Jersey bulls produces hybrids whose milk production does not depend on the milk production of the mother cow. Four days later the Presidium of the Academy named an investigating commission which reported last September that the farm was run inefficiently and was mismanaged, that the breeding and agricultural experiments were badly designed and records not kept, and that the advances claimed by Lysenko were not substantiated. Lysenko was thus attacked in the very area which had given him a following among Soviet agronomists. A 129- page report discussing in detail these shortcomings was widely publicized. In the annual report to the Academy on February 1, 1965, President Keldysh vindicated the late N. I. Vavilov and sharply criticized Lysenko's role in Soviet biology and agriculture over a period of 18 years. It seems that this tragic chapter in Soviet science is ending,


The incorporation of science and technology into society is crucially important to the welfare of a modern state. The military and economic importance of technological developments, their limitless possibilities for good and evil, their inexhaustible demands for funds from the national economy, require immense organization-for gathering significant information, for making policy decisions, for planning, allocating manpower, conducting basic research and assigning priorities to development and production. Each of the major governments of the world has its own approach to the incorporation of science and technology into its society, but many of the problems that result are common to all of them.

Maximum utilization of science for building a "material-technical basis" for Communism has been the concern of the Party leadership. It has been eminently successful in organizing research and development in the secret areas of atomic weapons, missiles and space vehicles. It has had difficulties in using the discoveries of science for the general welfare of the state. There have been many reorganizations of the Soviet scientific effort. Most recently, a State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. on Science and Technology has been organized at the highest government level. Academician V. A. Kirillin, a Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences, has been named chairman of this committee and given the rank of Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union.

The Academy of Sciences is still the stronghold of pure and applied research in the Soviet Union. Its institutes are prestige establishments, its academicians are the scientific élite. However, the size of its laboratories is about equal to that provided by the Boston-Cambridge area alone, and domination by academicians, who rule over extensive scientific "empires," has caused stagnation in policies and personnel. Some of these shortcomings have been criticized this year in Komsomolskaya Pravda by the elder statesman of Soviet science, Peter L. Kapitza.

In order to offer opportunity to younger scientists and to expand the scientific base in the Soviet Union, a large science city was established in Siberia. A number of energetic Soviet scientists left the comforts of Moscow for the climatic rigors of Novosibirsk. The scientific world is observing with interest this new approach to scientific productivity. As for the universities, the major scientific investigations are carried out primarily in Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk and Kiev; the other 36 universities have isolated areas of excellence. Overall, basic research activity is but a fraction of that in the United States.

The Committee for Coördination of Research, which was established in 1961 to exercise overall supervision of science and development, has had its role reduced to collection of information and development work. Under its supervision is the All Union Institute of Scientific and Technical Information. A permanent staff of more than 2,000 experts scans the world's scientific literature for discoveries that will help to build the "material- technical basis" for Communism and to fill in the large gaps in Soviet basic research. The State Committee on Coördination of Research, however, is primarily concerned with applied research and development, and even here the Soviet record has not been impressive. In the West, the industrial development of a new process costs about ten times as much as the original research project. It requires engineering skills that the Soviet Union does not seem to have. For this reason the Soviets have been eager to buy processes already proven profitable in the West rather than bear the burden of independent development.

The major problem facing all major countries of the world is how to allocate the available amount of money and the available number of scientifically trained people among the various sciences and competing groups in universities, government laboratories and industrial organizations. This allocation must ensure the proper balance between pure research, with its emphasis on the "unexpected," and applied research and development, with its demand for economically profitable results. This problem we in the United States share with the Soviet Union.

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