David Joravsky is Professor Emeritus of History at Northwestern. His books include The Lysenko Affairand Russian Psychology: A Critical History.

Machine Dreams

Thomas A. Edison invented his life story as he invented electromechanical systems, by imaginative adaptations of previous stories and systems, with essential elements improved at critical points. He was the purely self-made man, without formal education, patronage, or inheritance. His invented life ignored the few years he had in a …

Glasnost Theater

These nights in Moscow Peter Verkhovensky climbs out of a coffin-shaped trapdoor, comes down to the footlights, a greenish white face glistening against a darkened background, and harshly declaims the message of Dostoevsky’s Devils. For the intensely silent Soviet audience it is closer to lived experience than to literary fantasy: …

Off to a Bad Start

Enlightenment should be possible anywhere, and sometimes is. Benjamin Franklin in colonial Philadelphia created theories of electricity that excited admiration and fruitful argument in the intellectual centers of Europe. But somehow in the century after Franklin a self-limiting provincialism stifled creative science in America. The exception that appears at the …

Return of the Native

Peter Kapitza, who died last year at eighty-nine, was probably the most celebrated Soviet scientist before Sakharov, and for analogous reasons. He stood embattled at the intersection of physics and politics, an independent man of astonishing courage. But unlike Sakharov he was not savagely punished; indeed, he was honored at …

Is Science Beautiful?

Darwin told us a story about ourselves. Novelists tell us stories of ourselves. Is there then some essential similarity between Darwin’s Descent of Man and, say, George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda? Gillian Beer thinks there is, and I believe she has some important points that illuminate both Darwin and Eliot, both …

Unholy Science

Learned audiences smile happily when they hear the story of Einstein’s defiant response to Kaufmann. Walter Kaufmann was a professor of physics who had been measuring the relation between charge and mass in electrons when Einstein, a twenty-six-year-old employee of the Swiss patent office, published the special theory of relativity.

Body, Mind, and Machine

Common sense and neurophysiology stubbornly insist on making a sharp distinction between mind and body, despite the efforts of monistic philosophers to make them one. Food in the mind is qualitatively different from food in the mouth. Saliva may flow in response to both stimuli, and the monistic preacher may …

Sin and the Scientist

Baudelaire made a blasphemous poem out of the Biblical notion that innocence is virtue, knowledge evil. He turned his back on godly virtue and prayed for satanic knowledge. The Tree of Knowledge (l’Arbre de Science) would be a new temple, spreading its boughs over Satan’s brow, and he prayed that …

Scientists as Servants

Since Congress cannot repeal the law of gravitation, is physics at odds with democracy? That is high school humor, but it can be turned into scary questions, illustrated with human shadows burned into Hiroshima walls, bewildered refugees from Middletown, Pa., and amphitheaters of docile youths copying equations. Since the laws …

The Scientist as Conformist

In August 1945 British military intelligence unwittingly performed a splendid experiment in the social psychology of natural scientists. They delivered the news of Hiroshima to interned German atomic scientists, and secretly recorded the conversation that resulted. Only fragments of the record have got past restrictions on “classified” material, but they …

A Great Soviet Psychologist

What is distinctively Soviet in Soviet thought? The usual answer, Marxism-Leninism, creates more awkward problems than it resolves, especially when the influence of that parochial ideology is sought in a universally respected scholar such as the psychologist Alexander Luria. The Working Brain, his eleventh book in English, has no references …

The Head on Jung’s Pillow

Arthur Koestler and Norman Macbeth, a lawyer, are annoyed with biological science, sufficiently so to publish criticisms of it. A century ago that fact would hardly have been noteworthy. Now it is as startling as the appearance of a living fossil. Any willingness to challenge scientists in their special fields …

A Hero in the USSR

Soon it will be the twentieth anniversary of the death of Stalin, and the chances are growing that he, rather than the liberation that followed his death, will be celebrated. The liberation was real; under Stalin the Soviet intelligentsia simply were unable to read such books of protest as this …

Cracked Wheat

To condemn the practices of nations whose historical experience is very different from our own is to imply that we in their place would do better: a pointless exercise, for we are not in their place, and a repulsive one, as self-congratulation usually is. But it is hard to talk …