Nikolai Ivanovich Vawilow

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Nikolai Vavilov
Monument to Vavilov in Saratov

Nikolai Vavilov ( Russian Николай Иванович Вавилов ., Scientific transliteration Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov ; born 13 jul. / 25. November  1887 greg. In Moscow ; † 26. January 1943 in Saratov ) was an internationally-respected Russian botanists, geneticists and explorer. He founded the theory of the geographical gene centers of cultivated plants. Its official botanical author's abbreviation is " Vavilov ".


Wawilow, the son of a manager of a textile factory, studied at the Agricultural Institute in Moscow from 1906 to 1910 and made himself familiar with the latest results in the field of biology on study trips to Western European countries. From 1917 he taught as a professor of agriculture and genetics at the University of Saratov and from 1921 as a professor of botany and plant breeding at the Agricultural Institute in Petrograd (today: Saint Petersburg). From 1924 to 1940 he was director of the "All Union Institute for Applied Botany" (later "All Union Institute for Plant Breeding") in Leningrad and 1928-1935 of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ВАСХНИЛ) and from 1930 to 1940 director of the Institute for Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Moscow. From 1929 on he was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR .

Within the ВАСХНИЛ founded by Wawilow, there were disputes with Trofim Denisovich Lyssenko , who had originally been promoted by Wawilow because of his plant physiological research and his rural origin.

On August 6, 1940, Wawilow was arrested as a member of the "Working Peasant Party" invented by the NKVD as part of the political repression in the Stalin Soviet Union, which continued after the formal end of the " Great Terror " on November 17, 1938 Sentenced to death in July 1941 . On October 2, he was transferred from Butyrka prison to the inner prison of the Lubyanka , pardoned on June 23, 1942, imprisonment for twenty years, and transferred to Saratov on October 29, 1942 . He died in Saratov prison on January 26, 1943, at the age of 55, probably of malnutrition.

Research services

At the 3rd All-Russian Congress of Plant Breeders in Saratov in June 1920, Vavilov formulated the " law of homologous series ". Its meaning was immediately compared to Mendeleev's periodic table of chemical elements, because it made it possible to predict the existence of as yet unknown plant forms based on known relationships. His contribution, The law of homologous series in variation , published in the Journal of Genetics in 1922, is considered a landmark in the history of science in biology. The breeding of sweet lupins , initiated by Erwin Baur in 1927 and successfully carried out by Reinhold von Sengbusch in the following years , confirmed Wawilow's law of homologous series and found widespread recognition in science.

In search of missing plant forms for his system of homologous rows, Wawilow undertook numerous exemplary organized collection expeditions to all important regions of the world. He observed that genetic variation in the cultivated plants is concentrated in a few centers. He first presented the theory developed from this knowledge about the centers of origin of cultivated plants in 1927 at the 5th International Congress for Hereditary Science in Berlin. His theory of the gene centers was of extraordinary importance for international crop research ( gene center ). Scientists from many countries carried out expeditions in the years that followed and collected seeds from cultivated and wild plants in these gene centers. The “ German Hindu Kush Expedition ” led by the agricultural botanist Arnold Scheibe in 1935 also served primarily this purpose.

Wawilow Institute

The plant seeds, which Wawilow collected himself on extensive research trips, became the basis of the gene bank in Saint Petersburg that is named after him today . This Wawilow Institute has the largest collection of genetic resources from cultivated plants in the world today. While Vawilov was in prison in Saratov and died, his employees saved the treasures he had collected through the time of need that was triggered by the siege of Leningrad by the German Wehrmacht .

The planned sale of the state land for new construction projects has threatened this important genebank since 2010.

honors and awards

Soviet postage stamp (1987)

Wawilow was probably one of the most important biologists in the world between the two world wars . He has been repeatedly elected chairman of international congresses. He was a member of numerous scientific specialist societies and academies, since 1925 also a member of the Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina zu Halle (Saale). From 1931 to 1940 he was President of the Geographical Society of the USSR . In 1926 he received the Lenin Prize as the highest honor in his country .

In 1955 the judgment against Wawilow was overturned posthumously. In the 1960s, his reputation in the Soviet Union was officially restored and he was considered a hero of Soviet scientists.

The Plant Industry Institute in St. Petersburg is named after him. It contains one of the largest collections of genetic material from plants. The minor planet (2862) Vavilov , which was discovered in 1977 by Nikolai Stepanowitsch Tschernych , is named after him and his brother Sergei Ivanovich Wawilow . The lunar crater Vavilov is named after him and his brother Sergei Ivanovich Wawilow. The Soviet Post honored him in 1987 by issuing a special stamp on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The Vawilow Gold Medal is awarded by the Russian Academy of Sciences for outstanding achievements in the field of genetics.


In his honor was the genus Vavilovia Fed. named from the legume family (Fabaceae). Vavilov Hill in Antarctica also bears his name.


As far as possible, the latest available edition should be given.

  • Five Continents . NI Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry - International Plant Genetic Resources Institute et al. (Ed.); Doris Löve (translator). LE Rodin, Semën Reznik, Paul Stapleton (ed.). VIR / IPGRI, Saint Petersburg / Rome 1997, ISBN 92-9043-302-7 .
  • Origin and Geography of Cultivated Plants . VF Dorofeyev (ed.); Doris Löve (translator). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1992, ISBN 0-521-40427-4 .
  • The law of homologous series in variation . In: Journal of Genetics , Vol. 12, 1922, pp. 47-89, digitized .
  • Geographical centers of our cultivated plants . In: Negotiations of the V International Congress for Hereditary Science Berlin 1927 = Journal for Inductive Descent and Hereditary Theory, Supplement Volume 1, 1928, pp. 342–369.
  • List of the most important books by Vavilov in Russian: see Die Kulturpflanze , Vol. 36, 1988, pp. 52-53.
  • Studies in the Origin of Cultivated Plants. 1926
  • With O. Jakushina: A contribution to the phylogeny of wheats ... 1925
  • With EVWulff, editor of: Kyltyrnaia flora SSR , 20 volumes, 1935–1958
  • Posthumously published: The origin, variation, immunity and breeding of cultivated plants. 1951 (translated by KS Chester)
  • Also published posthumously: Origin and geography of cultivated plants. 1992 (translated by D. Löve)


  • The treasure keepers . In: Greenpeace Magazin / Nachrichten Nr. 5, Hamburg 1999.
  • Christian Lehmann, Dieter Mettin, Joachim Dehne: Nikolai Iwanowitsch Wawilow (1887-1943) . In: Archive for Zuchtungsforschung, Vol. 17, 1987, pp. 331–336.
  • ES Levina: Vavilov, Lysenko , Nikolai Wladimirowitsch Timofejew-Ressowski ... Biologija v SSSR: Istorija i istoriografija. Airo-XX, Moscow 1995, ISBN 5-88735-005-9 .
  • Igor G. Loskutov: Vavilov and his Institute . IPGR -, Rome 1999, ISBN 978-92-9043-412-2 .
  • Shores A. Medvedev: The Lyssenko case. Science surrenders . Peter A. Weidner (translated from the American). Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1971 ISBN 3-455-05090-5 ; again Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag , dtv, ISBN 3-423-00972-1 .
  • Robin Pistorius: Scientists, plants and policits. A history of the plant genetic resources movement . International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome 1997, ISBN 92-9043-308-6 .
  • Mark Popovskij: NI Vavilov and the biological discussion in the USSR . Eastern European Institute, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-921374-11-1 (= reports of the Eastern European Institute at the Free University of Berlin, Medical Series, Issue 116).
  • S. Reznik, Y. Vavilov: The Russian Scientist Nicolay Vavilov. In: NI Vavilov: Five Continents . International Plant Genetics Institute, Rome 1997.
  • Yes. G. Rokitjanskij, Juri N. Vavilov, VA Gončarov (eds.): Sud palača. Nikolaj Vavilov v zastenkach NKVD. Biografičeskj očerk. Documenty. Acadmeia, Moscow 1999, ISBN 5-87444-069-0 .
  • Symposium on the 100th birthday of NI Vavilov in Gatersleben, December 8-10, 1987 . In: The cultivated plant . Messages from the Central Institute for Genetics and Crop Plant Research Gatersleben of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR, Volume 36. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1988.
  • T. Dobzhansky: NI Vavilov, a martyr of genetics 1887-1942. In: Journal of Heredity , 38, 1947, pp. 226-232, (PDF; 994 kB).
  • The eight trillion dollar bank. The Wawilow Institute in St Petersburg, by Diana Laarz. Süddeutsche Zeitung of July 12, 2014
  • Vavilov, Lysenko and Stalin. Or: How do we feed the people? (Documentary) arte-france, ARD 2018

Web links

Commons : Nikolai Vavilov  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Website of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine ( Memento of the original dated November 30, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. - Member's website Nikolai Ivanovich Wawilow, accessed on November 29, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Nils Roll-Hansen: The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science . Humanity Books, 2005.
  3. Note no. 1 of the translator "monuments to the victims of Soviet terror." . In: "linksnet", December 17, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  4. Ulla Lachauer: Treasure Chamber of Biodiversity - The Wawilow Institute in Saint Petersburg ( Memento of the original from June 14, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , repeated on June 11, 2015 in WDR 5 Leonardo , accessed online June 12, 2015, 12:22 am. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ Peter Pringle: The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov . Simon and Schuster , 2008, ISBN 978-0-7432-6498-3 , pp. 300 .
  6. James W. Atz and Robert J. Winter: Further steps in the rehabilitation of NI Vavilov . In: The Journal of Heredity . 59, No. 5, 1968, pp. 274-275.
  7. NIVavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry on
  8. ^ Lutz D. Schmadel: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . 5th edition. Springer Verlag , New York 2003, ISBN 3-540-00238-3 , pp. 235 ( ).
  9. ^ NI Wawilow gold medal. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed April 28, 2018 (in Russian).
  10. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .
  11. a b c d e Walter Erhardt among others: The great pikeperch. Encyclopedia of Plant Names . Volume 2, page 2072. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2008. ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7