Science In Russia and the Soviet Union

In This Review

Science In Russia and the Soviet Union

By Loren R. Graham
Cambridge University Press, 1992
306 pp. $23.95
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The premier historian of the subject here explores for the general reader how Russian politics, economics and society have shaped the nature and direction of Russian science. Not only does he show the impact of particular ideas--say, of dialectical materialism on psychology through great scientists like Lev Vygotsky or on biochemistry through Aleksandr Oparin--he also probes the way specific institutions, such as the Russian and Soviet Academy of Science, determined the unfolding of science and technology. In the process, he focuses on the most fundamental puzzles, such as why Russia has always had "such a strong tradition in mathematics and astronomy, but weak ones in experimental science." Or why Soviet astrophysicists have been "enthusiastic pioneers in developing 'inflationary theories' of the development of the universe and critics of 'big bang' theories." In spare and accessible form, Graham offers both a broad, insightful social and political history of Russia and science as well as much food for thought about the general consequences of the national context within which science grows.