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The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky

The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky: Essays on His Life and Thought in Russia and America

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky
    Book Description:

    This volume not only offers an intellectual biography of one of the most important biologists and social thinkers of the twentieth century but also illuminates the development of evolutionary studies in Russia and in the West. Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), a creator of the "evolutionary synthesis" and the author of its first modern statement,Genetics and the Origin of Species(1937), founded modern Western population genetics and wrote many popular books on such topics as human evolution, race and racism, equality, and human destiny. In this, the first book devoted to an analysis of the historical, scientific, and cultural dimensions of Dobzhansky's life and thought, an international group of historians, biologists, and philosophers addresses the full span of his career in Russia and the United States.

    Beginning with the reminiscences of his daughter, Sophia Dobzhansky Coe, these essays cover Dobzhansky's Russian roots (Nikolai L. Krementsov, Daniel A. Alexandrov, Mikhail B. Konashev), the Morgan Lab (Garland E. Allen, William B. Provine, Robert E. Kohler, Richard M. Burian), his scientific legacy (Scott F. Gilbert, Bruce Wallace, Charles E. Taylor), and his social, political, philosophical, and religious thought (Costas B. Krimbas, John Beatty, Diane B. Paul, Michael Ruse).

    Originally published in 1994.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6380-8
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Mark B. Adams
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction

    • Introduction: Theodosius Dobzhansky in Russia and America
      (pp. 3-12)
      Mark B. Adams

      Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900–1975) was one of the most important biologists of the twentieth century.

      Consider his achievements. The central architect of the modern evolutionary synthesis during the interwar years, he integrated diverse biological specialties in his remarkably influential classic,Genetics and the Origin of Species(1937)—a book that reoriented the thinking of many biologists and whose subsequent editions constituted the evolvinglocus classicusof the new view. As a practicing scientist, he created population genetics in the United States, established it as the central evolutionary discipline, trained an international school in the subject, and created an ongoing series...

    • Theodosius Dobzhansky: A Family Story
      (pp. 13-28)
      Sophia Dobzhansky Coe

      Theodosius Dobzhansky, my father, was, by the Gregorian calendar, born on 25 January 1900 in Nemirov, a town southwest of Kiev. By the Julian calendar, in use in the Russia of the time, it was 12 January. He often said that had he been born twelve days earlier, that is to say in 1899 by the Julian reckoning, he would have been subject to the draft for World War 1 and his history would have almost certainly been a different and a shorter one.

      Nowhere can I find the date of his parents’ marriage. This has a bearing on his...

  6. Part One: Russian Roots

    • Dobzhansky and Russian Entomology: The Origin of His Ideas on Species and Speciation
      (pp. 31-48)
      Nikolai L. Krementsov

      One of Dobzhansky’s main achievements in the development of evolutionary theory, in the opinion of almost all historians, was his introduction of the biological species concept. We can see the essence of the concept in his own words (Dobzhansky 1935, p. 354):

      Considering dynamically, species represents that stage of evolutionary divergence, at which the once actually or potentially interbreeding array of forms becomes segregated into two or more separate arrays which are physiologically incapable of interbreeding.

      The fundamental importance of this stage is due to the fact that it is only the development of the isolating mechanisms that makes possible...

    • Filipchenko and Dobzhansky: Issues in Evolutionary Genetics in the 1920s
      (pp. 49-62)
      Daniel A. Alexandrov

      Dobzhansky always regarded Filipchenko as his mentor, but it is far from obvious what Dobzhansky’s population genetics and Filipchenko’s quantitative studies of variation and inheritance had in common. To modern geneticists, Filipchenko’s researches look remarkably old-fashioned, even by the standards of his own day. If we look more closely at the works of these two men during the first quarter-century, however, we can uncover common ground. Analyzing their similarities and differences not only helps us understand the nature of Dobzhansky’s debt to Filipchenko but also clarifies the nature of Dobzhansky’s later work.

      Iurii Filipchenko (1882–1930) belongs to the first...

    • From the Archives: Dobzhansky in Kiev and Leningrad
      (pp. 63-84)
      Mikhail B. Konashev

      In writing about Soviet genetics in the 1920s, Theodosius Dobzhansky rightly focused on three great centers: Nikolai Vavilov’s Institute of Applied Botany, Nikolai Kol’tsov’s Institute of Experimental Biology in Moscow (which included S. S. Chetverikov and A. S. Serebrovskii), and Iurii Filipchenko’s department of genetics at Leningrad University (Dobzhansky 1980, p. 236).

      Of the three centers, Filipchenko’s has received by far the least attention, especially by Russian historians. There are several Western works devoted to Filipchenko and particularly to his eugenics (Adams 1980a, 1980b, 1989, 1990a, 1990b), but in Soviet publications, aside from a slim and greatly censored biography (Medvedev...

  7. Part Two: The Morgan Lab

    • Theodosius Dobzhansky, the Morgan Lab, and the Breakdown of the Naturalist/Experimentalist Dichotomy, 1927–1947
      (pp. 87-98)
      Garland E. Allen

      We are all familiar with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s statement “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (Dobzhansky 1972). I would like to slightly amend that quotation with what I hope would be Professor Dobzhansky’s approval: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolutionand genetics.” I suggest this modification because it emphasizes the two most crucial aspects of Dobzhansky’s work. One is the application of new genetic techniques, during the period of the “evolutionary synthesis,” to the solution of problems in evolutionary theory. More fundamentally, the modification also gives equal recognition to the two...

    • The Origin of Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species
      (pp. 99-114)
      William B. Provine

      The year 1936 was momentous for Theodosius Dobzhansky. He began the year as an assistant professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, collaborating with his senior colleague A. H. Sturtevant on the most exciting work he had ever done in science—investigating chromosomal inversions in natural populations ofDrosophila pseudoobscuraand its close relatives. Early in the year an attractive offer arrived from Milislav Demerec, head of theDrosophilaresearch program in the Department of Genetics at the Station for Experimental Evolution in Cold Spring Harbor, for Dobzhansky to spend several months of the summer...

    • Fly Room West: Dobzhansky, D. pseudoobscura, and Scientific Practice
      (pp. 115-128)
      Robert E. Kohler

      This is a case study in scientific practice in T. H. Morgan’s school ofDrosophilageneticists at the time that Theodosius Dobzhansky was a member of the “fly group” in 1927–1940.¹ Two aspects ofDrosophilapractice especially interest me. First, the production process: I will treatDrosophilaas a scientific instrument, as a piece of laboratory technology.Drosophilawas not so much an object of study as a means for producing genetic knowledge. Standard organisms likeDrosophilacan be seen as systems of production, designed artifacts that have skills and procedures built into them through long use. Such instruments...

    • Dobzhansky on Evolutionary Dynamics: Some Questions about His Russian Background
      (pp. 129-140)
      Richard M. Burian

      This paper poses some questions regarding the influence of Dobzhansky’s Russian background on his later views regarding evolutionary dynamics. Since I know Russian materials only at second hand, I cannot seriously answer the questions raised here; my main hope is to provoke a response from those who are familiar with, or who are able to investigate, the Russian roots of Dobzhansky’s work. This said, I shall focus mainly on Dobzhansky’s response to the views of Iurii Filipchenko,¹ Dobzhansky’s close friend and mentor² and the person who coined the termmacroevolution(Philiptschenko 1927).³

      I suspect that Dobzhansky’s arguments for the continuity...

  8. Part Three: The Scientific Legacy

    • Dobzhansky, Waddington, and Schmalhausen: Embryology and the Modern Synthesis
      (pp. 143-154)
      Scott F. Gilbert

      This paper seeks to outline the attempts by Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen and Conrad Hal Waddington to integrate embryology with the Modern Synthesis and to understand why Dobzhansky favored and popularized Schmalhausen’s work but denigrated Waddington’s. The fact that Dobzhansky did approve of one over the other suggests that although Waddington’s and Schmalhausen’s respective syntheses were very similar, the differences between them were critical enough for Dobzhansky to perform some selection on them; the differences were not neutral. What are these differences, and why were they important to Dobzhansky?

      In the 1930s genetics was rapidly replacing embryology as the premier way...

    • Theodosius Dobzhansky Remembered: Genetic Coadaptation
      (pp. 155-162)
      Bruce Wallace

      I was a last-year undergraduate student at Columbia University when I met Dobzhansky. He had inquired of Arthur Pollister whether any Columbia student would be interested in employment collectingDrosophila pseudoobscuraduring the summer of 1941. John A. Moore, when asked by Pollister, recalled that as a freshman I had remarked that I was majoring in zoology in order to travel. Before introducing me to Dobzhansky, however, Pollister gave me a copy ofGenetics and the Origin of Species(Dobzhansky 1937) and insisted that I read it. Only then would Pollister make the introduction.

      My collaboration, or at least correspondence,...

    • Dobzhansky, Artificial Life, and the “Larger Questions” of Evolution
      (pp. 163-176)
      Charles E. Taylor

      “There is grandeur in this view of life … from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved” (Darwin 1859, p. 490). This grandeur aptly characterizes the worldview of Th. Dobzhansky. Doby believed that evolution permeates our world and that the theory of evolution both provides a unified view of our place in nature that is scientifically well grounded and offers a source of hope for the human future. His life’s work was devoted to the development and exposition of that vision.

      Although Doby believed that the deepest and most important...

  9. Part Four: Dobzhansky’s Worldview

    • The Evolutionary Worldview of Theodosius Dobzhansky
      (pp. 179-194)
      Costas B. Krimbas

      Theodosius dobzhansky (1900–1975) played a key role in the establishment of the modern theory of evolution and the development of population genetics, but he understood his own work in these fields as of broadly humanistic significance. In this essay I will try to present his weltanschauung and its origins, combining bibliographic information together with personal data from a long-standing friendship, which started 1958–1960 when I worked under his guidance as a postdoctoral fellow.

      In the 1936 Jesup Lectures at Columbia University and the influential book that resulted from them,Genetics and the Origin of Species(1937). Dobzhansky presented...

    • Dobzhansky and the Biology of Democracy: The Moral and Political Significance of Genetic Variation
      (pp. 195-218)
      John Beatty

      “What can science do for democracy?” It was a question raised often in the United States in the late 1930s and 1940s. Prompting it was a serious threat to democracy—the rise and spread of fascism, combined with a nagging suspicion (not without grounds) that American science had in the past served more to undermine the cause of democracy than to advance it. In other words, what—for a change—could scientists do to support democracy in that trying time?

      Among the scientists who posed the question and tried to answer it was the barely American, Russian émigré Theodosius Dobzhansky....

    • Dobzhansky in the “Nature-Nurture” Debate
      (pp. 219-232)
      Diane B. Paul

      In “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” the psychologist Arthur Jensen asserted that genetic differences probably explain at least half of the black-white gap in IQ test scores (Jensen 1969). His article produced a storm of controversy. Initially Jensen was criticized for exaggerating the significance of heritability estimates and for using statistics on the heritability of IQ within races to draw conclusions about the genetics of IQ differences between them. Even his severest critics took for granted, however, that IQ differences within populations were to some degree heritable (Kagan 1969; Hirsch 1970; Lewontin 1970; Bodmer and Cavalli-Sforza...

    • Dobzhansky and the Problem of Progress
      (pp. 233-246)
      Michael Ruse

      I start with a paradox. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit, also a paleontologist, who created a remarkable world picture synthesizing science and religion, in which everything pointed progressively to a supposed “Omega Point,” something Teilhard identified with Jesus Christ (Teilhard de Chardin 1955). Expectedly, conventional scientists were scathing in their negative reactions (e.g., Medawar 1969). And yet he who has good claim to having been the greatest evolutionist since Charles Darwin, Theodosius Dobzhansky, was president of the American branch of the Teilhard Society (see Dobzhansky 1967). Unraveling this paradox takes us to the heart of Dobzhansky’s thought,...

    (pp. 247-249)