by Tatyana AVRUTSKAYA, keeper of the Vavilov memorial museum, Academic Secretary of the Vavilov Heritage Commission, research associate of the Vavilov Federal State Budget Institute of General Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
There are names in science revered throughout the world. One of them is Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov, a great Man and naturalist, the author of classical theories like the law of homologous series in hereditary variability, the theory of plant immunity and the theory of the centers of origin of crop plants. He shared the tragic fate of many of our geneticists victimized in the 1930s and 1940s. In this year of 2012 we mark his 125th birth anniversary.
THE SCIENTIST'S CALLING AND FATE
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was born in Moscow on the 25th of November of 1887 into the family of a major commercial dealer and member of the Moscow City Duma (Assembly) Ivan Ilyich Vavilov. His mother was Alexandra Mikhailovna Vavilova, nee Postnikova. Their sons, Nikolai and his brothers, devoted their life to science. Their daughters, Alexandra and Lydia, threw in their lot with medicine. The younger son, Sergei Vavilov, evolved as a great physicist, for years he headed the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Nikolai Vavilov chose biology.
The father, however, wanted Nikolai to follow in his steps and become a merchant. Consequently, Nikolai got enrolled in H.M. Commercial School in Moscow. Upon graduation in 1906, the young man was in for the degree of Candidate of Commerce and the title of an honorary citizen of Moscow. Yet he did not feel like going on with his education in the commercial line. Natural sciences, agronomy for one, were his major attraction. Therefore he entered the Moscow Agricultural College, "the best agricultural school", as he put it. In 1911 Nikolai Vavilov became a career agronomist of the first rank, and stayed on at the Agricultural College
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