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Ivan Michurin

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Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (Иван Владимирович Мичурин in Russian) (October 27, 1855 - June 7, 1935), was a Soviet Lamarckist and teacher of Trofim Lysenko. He was also an Honorable Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1935), academician of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agriculture (1935).

In 1875, Michurin leased a strip of land of about 500 square metres not far from Tambov, began collecting plants, and started his research in pomology and selection. In 1899, he acquired a much bigger strip of land of about 130,000 square metres and moved all of his plants there.

In 1920, right after the end of the Russian Civil War, Vladimir Lenin ordered People's Commissar of Agriculture Semion Sereda to organize an analytic research on Michurin's works and practical achievements. On September 11, 1922, Mikhail Kalinin visited Michurin at Lenin's personal request. On November 20, 1923, the Council of People's Commissars recognized Michurin's "fruit garden" as an institution of state importance. In 1928, the Soviets established a selectionist genetic station on the basis of Michurin's garden, which would be re-organized into the Michurin Central Genetic Laboratory in 1934.

Michurin made a major contribution in the development of genetics, especially in the field of pomology. In his cytogenetic laboratory, he researched cell structure and experimented with artificial polyploidy. Michurin studied the aspects of heredity in connection with the natural course of ontogenesis and external influence, creating a whole new concept of predominance. He proved that predominance depends on heredity, ontogenesis, and phylogenesis of the initial cell structure and also on individual features of hybrids and conditions of cultivation. In his works, Michurin assumed a possibility of changing genotype under external influence.

Michurin was one of the founding fathers of scientific agricultural selection. He worked on hybridization of plants of similar and different origins, cultivating methods in connection with the natural course of ontogenesis, directing the process of predominance, evaluation and selection of seedlings, acceleration of process of selection with the help of physical and chemical factors.

Michurin’s method of crossing of geographically distant plants would be widely used by other selectionists. He worked out theoretical basis and some practical means for hybridization of geographically distant plants. Michurin also proposed means for overcoming the genetic barrier of incompatibility during the process of hybridization, such as pollination of the young hybrids during their first florescence, preliminary vegetative crossing, use of a “mediator”, pollination with the mix of different kinds of pollen etc.

The Soviets began to cultivate Michurin’s hybrids of apple, pear, cherry, rowan and others. Michurin was the one to start cultivation of his hybrids of grape, apricot, sweet cherry and other southern plants in the northern climates.

During the Lysenkoism campaign, Michurin (without his intentions) was promoted as a Soviet leader in theory of evolution, in an opposition to genetics, pejoratively called Weismanism-Morganism-Mendelism by Soviet propaganda. In fact, Michurin's theory of influence of the environment on the heredity was a variant of Lamarckism. He maintained the position that the task of a selectioner is to assist and enhance the natural selection. The following Michurin's phrase was widely popularized in the Soviet Union: "Мы не можем ждать милостей от природы. Взять их у нее - наша задача" ("We cannot wait for favors from the Nature. To take them from it -- that is our task.") For this reason, in the Soviet Union he was placated as the only true follower of Darwinism.

Throughout all his life Michurin worked to create new sorts of fruit plants. He introduced over 300 new species. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his achievements.

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