Zhores Medvedev

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Zhores Aleksandrovich Medvedev
Native name Жорес Александрович Медведев
Born (1925-11-14) November 14, 1925 (age 92)
Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR
Nationality Russian
Alma mater Russian State Agricultural University
Known for human rights activism with participation in dissident movement in the Soviet Union
Scientific career
Fields agronomy, biology, gerontology

Zhores Aleksandrovich Medvedev (Russian: Жоре́с Алекса́ндрович Медве́дев; born 14 November 1925) is a Russian agronomist, biologist, historian and dissident. His twin brother is the historian Roy Medvedev.

Biography[edit]

Zhores [= Jaurès] Medvedev and his twin brother Roy were born on 14 November 1925 in Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR. In December 1950, Zhores was awarded a PhD degree (kandidat biologicheskikh nauk) for his research into sexual processes in plants. He became a Junior Research Scientist in the Agrochemistry and Biochemistry Department at Timiryazev Academy and he was promoted to Senior Research Scientist in 1954 and remained at the academy until 1963. Beginning in 1952, Medvedev had focused his attention on the problems of aging, concentrating on the turnover of proteins and nucleic acids. In 1961, he published the first paper suggesting that aging is the result of an accumulation of errors in the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids. In 1962, Medvedev wrote his book on the history of Soviet genetics (later published in the United States as The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko, Columbia Univ. Press, 1969).

In 1963, Medvedev moved to Obninsk to the Institute of Medical Radiology, where he was appointed head of the molecular radiobiology laboratory. He published two books, Protein Biosynthesis and Problems of Heredity Development and Ageing (1963; English translation 1965 Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh) and Molecular Mechanisms of Development (1966; English translation 1968, Plenum Press, New York). Medvedev was dismissed from his position in 1969. Between 1968 and 1970, Medvedev wrote two more books: International Cooperation of Scientists and National Frontiers [1] and Secrecy of Correspondence is Guaranteed by Law (about postal censorship in the USSR). They were published in 1971 as Medvedev Papers by Macmillan in London. These works were widely circulated in the USSR among scientists, and this activity resulted in Medvedev's arrest and forced detention in the Kaluga psychiatric hospital in May 1970. This action, however, produced many protests from scientists (academics Andrei Sakharov, Pyotr Kapitsa, Igor Tamm, Vladimir Engelgardt, Boris Astaurov,[2] Nikolai Semyonov, and others) and writers (Solzhenitsyn, Tvardovsky, Vladimir Tendryakov, Vladimir Dudintsev, etc.), which resulted in Medvedev's release (this experience was reflected in Zhores Medvedev's and Roy Medvedev's book A Question of Madness, published by Macmillan in London in 1971).

In 1971, Medvedev was given the job of Senior scientist of the Institute of Physiology and Biochemistry of Farm Animals in Borovsk, in the Kaluga region. In 1972, he was invited for one year's research by the National Institute for Medical Research in London at its new Genetic Division. He remained in London and worked as Senior Research Scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research until his retirement in 1991. Medvedev published about 170 research papers and reviews, about sixty of them during his time in London. In 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[3] He received the Aging Research Award from the United States Association of Biogerontology in 1984 and the Rene Schubert Prize in Gerontology in 1985.

Dissent[edit]

Zhores Medvedev exposed the Kyshtym nuclear disaster, which occurred at Mayak near Kyshtym, Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Urals in 1957. He published the book The Nuclear Disaster in the Urals in 1979 (W.W. Norton, New York). Medvedev was an early victim of official attempts to stifle opposition by detaining dissidents in mental institutions. In London, Medvedev continued to edit the samizdat journal XX Century jointly with his brother Roy. The two also coauthored Khrushchev: The Years in Power (1978) and several other books, the last one The Unknown Stalin (2007).

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