Lesson 8: Science in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia

The relation between science and theology can be seen from a new angle by examining what happens to science when an alien ideology is imposed on society. There are two examples of this in the present century and both show, in different ways, that science is strangled.

1. Nazi Germany. The superiority of Aryan science and the expulsion of the Jews. Lenard and Stark, Planck and von Lane. Heisenberg and the German attempt to make an atomic bomb.

2. Soviet Russia. Marx, Engels and Lenin on science. Science based on dialectical materialism. Stalin and Bukharin. Condemnation of relativity and the theory of molecular bonding. The destruction of genetics by Lysenko. Bernal on the direction of science by the State and Polanyi on the freedom of science.

Reading List

J.R. Baker, Science and the Planned State. Allen and Unwin, 1945.

J.D. Bernal, The Social Function of Science. Routledge, 1939.

J. Bernstein, Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall. American Institute of Physics Press, 1995.

Alan Bullock, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny. Pelican.

D.C. Cassidy, Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg. Freeman, 1992.

S.A. Goudsmidt, Alsos. American Institute of Physics Press, 1995.

Max Heilbron, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck. University of Califoniia Press, 1987.

K. Hentschel (Ed), Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Birkhauser, 1996.

J. Huxley, Soviet Genetics and World Science: Lysenko and the Meaning of Heredity. Chatto and Windus, 1949.

K. Mendelssohn, The World of Walter Nernst: The Rise and Fall of German Science. Macmillan, 1973.

Z.A. Medvedev, The Medvedev Papers. Macmillan, 1971.

H.J. Muller, "The Destruction of Soviet Genetics". Readings in "Russian Civilisation". 709. University of Chicago Press, 1964.

M. Polanyi, "Personal Knowledge". Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958.


1. What happened to German science during the Nazi era?

2. How did the German scientists meet the challenge of Nazism?

3. What were the views of Engels and Lenin on science?

4. How was the work of scientists in the Soviet Union affected by the philosophy of Marx-Leninism?

5. What happened to genetics in Soviet Russia?

6. How was the work of Kapitza and Landau affected by the Soviet state?

7. Should science be directed to solve the immediate needs of society?


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