Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov (Fig. 1) was one of the foremost innovators of plant improvement during the first half of the twentieth century. His major achievements include the prescient Law of Homologous Variation, the concept of Centers of Origin for Cultivated Plants, the establishment of germplasm repositories (genebanks), plant breeding for disease resistance, and analyses of plant domestication. He was appointed to Director of the All-Union Institute of Agriculture in Leningrad and was instrumental in pushing the emergent Soviet Union to become a global leader in plant genetics and agricultural research in the 1920s and 1930s. His tragic downfall at the hand of Trofim Lysenko and Joseph Stalin in the late 1930s was a shameful and terrible chapter in the conflict of science and despotism. Vavilov died in prison as a martyr of science. His life and career have become an inspiration to botanists, geneticists, and agricultural scientists.
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Nabhan, G.P. 2009 Where our food comes from: tracing Nikolay Vavilov’s quest to end famine. Island Press, Washington, D.C
Pringle, P. 2009 The murder of Nikolai Vavilov: the story of Stalin’s persecution of one of the twentieth century’s greatest scientists. JR books, London
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