BCC, CUNY, and Columbia Professors Host 60 Scientists at Conference on Lysenkoism

December 17, 2009 | Bronx Community College

Bronx, NY - Bronx Community College Professor William deJong-Lambert of the History Department organized a two-day conference (December 4 and 5) at The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue) and the International Affairs Building at Columbia University on the work and career of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

Lysenko was a well-known Soviet geneticist who enjoyed great success under Joseph Stalin  (General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953) by claiming to have proven that acquired characteristics in plants can be inherited.  This suited the promethean claims of the Soviet leadership that Communism could entirely transform agriculture, if only Western assumptions about genetics be ignored.  The unhappy marriage of dishonest science combined with political opportunism remains a compelling story today, and the object of lively interest internationally among historians of science.

The conference was notable for the number of luminaries from Europe and Asia, as well as the United States, both on the panels and in the audience.  These included Michael Gordin (Princeton University), Miklos Muller (Rockefeller University), Michael Simunek (Charles University, Prague, the Czech Republic), Daniel Kevles (Yale University), Nils Roll-Hansen (University of Oslo, Norway), Catharine Nepomnyashchy (Barnard College and the Harriman Institute of Columbia University), Francesco Cassata (University of Turin, Italy), Ekkehard Höxtermann (Free University of Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany), Hirofumi Saito (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), Nikolai Krementsov (University of Toronto, Canada) and Loren Graham (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Especially notable was the presence of two members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  Some regard Russian academicians as being at the very top of their professions.  These were Eduard Israelovich Kolchinsky (director of the St. Petersburg Branch of the S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology), and Elena Levina (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Moscow).  Professor Graham of MIT stated, “how particularly remarkable the conference was in the international domain.”

In addition to Professor deJong-Lambert, who presented a paper on Lysenkoism in Poland recently, Chris Robinson and Philipp Rothmaler, two other members of the BCC faculty, also participated.

The conference received the generous support of BCC President Carolyn G. Williams and George Sanchez, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, as well as additional support from The CUNY Graduate Center, the Harriman Center of Columbia University, and Gillian Small, CUNY vice chancellor for Research.

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Founded in 1957, Bronx Community College (BCC), the oldest of City University of New York’s six community colleges, serves as the engine for academic and economic mobility for motivated students from diverse backgrounds and preparations. More than 10,500 students from over 109 nations are enrolled in 30 associate degree and certificate programs including Nursing, Radiologic Technology, Computer Graphics, Nuclear Medicine, and Business Administration, Digital Arts, Computer Information Systems, Education Associate, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Marketing, Accounting, Human Services, Media Technology and Paralegal Studies. BCC’s 43-acre campus, high above the Harlem River, features architectural masterpieces of Stanford White and Marcel Breuer, as well as the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, the nation’s first hall of fame. BCC President Carolyn G. Williams is in her 13th year of leadership service to the College, which is located on a 43-acre campus at 2155 University Avenue at West 181st Street , formerly New York University’s uptown campus until 1973.

The College is home to initiatives not commonly associated with two-year institutions, such as the Center for Sustainable Energy, which promotes the use of renewable and efficient energy technologies in urban communities. The National Center for Educational Alliances (NCEA) is currently collaborating with South African Further Education and Training Colleges and universities to create linkages between these institutions. NCEA also coordinates the College’s international initiatives and the annual International Education Week.

The Center has also facilitated a campus wide effort to create BCC’s Center for Tolerance and Understanding. The Center for Teaching Excellence offers faculty development to promote student achievement and to stimulate discussions to keep the teaching and learning process vital and dynamic. Take a look at BCC’s website at www.bcc.cuny.edu