Lamarck Jean

Lamarck Jean

(1744-1829) French biologist remembered for his now discredited theory that traits acquired by an organism during its lifetime are inheritable. This theory was contested principally by Charles DARWIN (1809-82), who suggested the now widely accepted theory of organic evolution by random variation and NATURAL SELECTION. Lamarck's connection with the 20th century and with political theory lies in the preference which the Soviet state under Joseph STALIN gave to Lamarckian rather than Darwinian principles. The project of creating a new socialist state and a new socialist person meant that any theory of development and change which suggested the inheritability (and thus, by implication, the perfectability) of acquired characteristics would find favour. Michusin (1855-1935), a Russian horticulturalist, was among the first to earn the praise of the Soviet government for attempting to prove Lamarckian principles. The infamous biologist and agronomist, LYSENKO, continued Michusin's project. With Stalin's support, Lysenko imposed theoretical uniformity on the scientific community as director of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1940-65), and as president of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Lysenko's baleful influence on Soviet science was not dislodged until the mid-1960s. see also EVOLUTIONARY THEORY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000