Ivan Schmalhausen

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Ivan Schmalhausen
Born Иван Иванович Шмальгаузен
April 23, 1884
Kiev, Russian Empire
Died October 7, 1963 (1963-10-08) (aged 79)
Leningrad, Soviet Union
Nationality Russian Empire Russian
Soviet Union Soviet
Fields Zoologist, evolutionist
Institutions University of Tartu
Kiev University, others
Alma mater Kiev University
Doctoral advisor Alexey Severtzov
Doctoral students Boris Balinsky
Known for

"The Organism as a Whole in its Individual and Historical Development" (1938)
Factors of evolution: the theory of

stabilizing selection (1949)

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen (Russian: Ива́н Ива́нович Шмальга́узен; April 23, 1884 – October 7, 1963) was a Ukrainian-Russian and Soviet zoologist and evolutionist. He was one of the central figures in the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen was born in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) on April 23, 1884 to Luise Schmalhausen (Luisa Ludwigovna Schmalhausen) and Johannes Theodor Schmalhausen (1849–1894). His father was one of the founding fathers of Russian paleobotany.[1]

In 1901 Schmalhausen graduated from the First Kiev Gymnasium (uk) and enrolled at Kiev University, but was expelled a year later after taking a part in student disturbances. In 1902 he resumed his university studies at Kiev in the faculty of biological science. Around 1902 he became acquainted with the founder of the Russian school of evolutionary morphology, Alexey Severtsov (ru) (1866–1936). He went on to become Professor of Darwinism at Moscow University and Director of the Institute for Evolutionary Morphology.

In 1904 Schmalhausen, under the guidance of Severtsov, completed his first scientific work on the embryonic development of lungs in a grass snake. He graduated from the university in 1909.

In 1910 Schmalhausen married Lydia Kozlova, a teacher of French from a small provincial Russian town.

He educated many eminent botanists, including Józef Paczoski, the founder of phytosociology.

On 23 August 1948 he became victim of order 1208, one of a series signed by Minister of Higher Education in the USSR, Sergei Kaftanov (ru), which led to the mass dismissals of many university professors. This destroyed his career, as it removed his professorship and also decreed the destruction of his books and research projects. This action came about due to accusations of Weissmannism and pro-Morganism, and of promoting the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, at a time when Trofim Lysenko and his followers were emphasising a process of heredity that focused on interaction with the environment and the inheritance of acquired characteristics along Lamarckian lines. (Lysenko put his theory into practice in agriculture, claiming to have improved wheat using Lamarckian techniques. Lysenkoism played a major role in Stalin's politics, stressing that hard work led to improvement in future generations.)

Schmalhausen had just written his book Factors of Evolution (which was translated into English and published in the West in 1949) and returned to work in morphology.

In 1955 Schmalhausen was one of the signatories of the "Letter of 300"—a collective letter by three-hundred scientists denouncing Lysenkoism.

He died on October 7, 1963 in Leningrad.[1]

Schmalhausen's Law[edit]

Schmalhausen's Law is a general principle that a population living at the boundary of its tolerance, in extreme or unusual conditions with regard to any aspect of its existence will be more vulnerable to small differences in any other aspect. Therefore, the variance of data is not simply noise interfering with the detection of so-called "main effects", but also an indicator of stressful conditions leading to greater vulnerability.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Levit, Georgy S.; Uwe Hossfeld; Lennart Olsson (2006). "From the "Modern Synthesis" to Cybernetics: Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen (1884–1963) and his Research Program for a Synthesis of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology" (PDF). Journal of Experimental Zoology. Wiley - Liss Inc. 306B (2006): 89–106. PMID 16419076. doi:10.1002/jez.b.21087. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  2. ^ Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins. "Schmalhausen’s Law." Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 11(4) (2000): 103–108