"In order to understand evolution and to guide our breeding work scientifically, even in application to our principal crops such as maize, wheat and cotton, we must go to the oldest agricultural countries, where the keys to the understanding of evolution are hidden."
-Nikolai Vavilov, "The process of evolution in cultivated plants", 6th International Congress of Genetics, Ithaca NY 1932
In 1932, Nikolai Vavilov, a brilliant plant geneticist of the early Soviet Union, visited Cornell University to attend the 6th International Congress of Genetics hosted by Cornell and the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. Recognized for key contributions to the study of plant genetics, including his pioneering work on global centers of genetic diversity, he achieved worldwide fame in his lifetime. Yet, only a few years after his Cornell visit, Vavilov died in prison, his work ruthlessly suppressed across Russian scientific institutions of the day—with catastrophic consequences for food production in the Soviet Union. This exhibit presents a cautionary tale of ideology and research that still holds lessons for life sciences scholarship and policymaking today.
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