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With and Without Galton: Vasilii Florinskii and the Fate of Eugenics in Russia

With and Without Galton: Vasilii Florinskii and the Fate of Eugenics in Russia Nikolai Krementsov
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78374-511-1 £22.95
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Several aspects of this book stand out: as an open access book, it offers enormous amounts of detailed description and over 150 pages of references to primary and secondary sources. For any researcher of any number of topics pertaining to the history of Russian science and academic institutions, this book is a treasure trove. The author’s work of translation, both literally and also in the sense of richly contextualising texts and events, is nothing short of remarkable in its painstaking detail.His writing is clear and engaging.

Maria Burcur, Social History of Medicine, Volume 32, Issue 3, August 2019, Pages 649–651, https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkz048

What Krementsov is essentially reminding us of here is the intimate alliance that used to pertain between historiography and philology. The historical analysis of something like ‘eugenics’, given its fundamentally  ransnational and transhistorical nature, cannot, from a methodological point of view, do without the historian both doing and analysing translation – and this both in its basic sense of moving from one linguistic code to the next, and in the broader sense of tracing the ongoing transformation of meaning through history. In this respect, Krementsov’s study is a contribution to more than just the history of eugenics: it also develops an inspiring  model for doing the history of science more generally.

Andy Byford, Annals of Science, December 2019, https://doi.org/10.1080/00033790.2019.1697828

In 1865, British polymath Francis Galton published his initial thoughts about the scientific field that would become ‘eugenics.’ The same year, Russian physician Vasilii Florinskii addressed similar issues in a sizeable treatise, entitled Human Perfection and Degeneration. Initially unheralded, Florinskii’s book would go on to have a remarkable afterlife in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russia.

In this lucid and insightful work, Nikolai Krementsov argues that the concept of eugenics brings together ideas, values, practices, and fears energised by a focus on the future. It has proven so seductive to different groups over time because it provides a way to grapple with fundamental existential questions of human nature and destiny. With and Without Galton develops this argument by tracing the life-story of Florinskii’s monograph from its uncelebrated arrival amid the Russian empire’s Great Reforms, to its reissue after the Bolshevik Revolution, its decline under Stalinism, and its subsequent resurgence: first, as a founding document of medical genetics, and most recently, as a manifesto for nationalists and racial purists.

Krementsov’s meticulously researched ‘biography of a book’ sheds light not only on the peculiar fate of eugenics in Russia, but also on its convoluted transnational history, elucidating the field’s protean nature and its continuing and contested appeal to diverse audiences, multiple local trajectories, and global trends. It is required reading for historians of eugenics, science, medicine, education, literature, and Russia, and it will also appeal to the general reader looking for a deeper understanding of this challenging subject.

Victoria College, University of Toronto, has generously contributed to the publication of this volume.

Click here to listen to Nikolai Krementsov's interview on With and Without Galton, broadcast by the New Books Network in May 2019.

With and Without Galton: Vasilii Florinskii and the Fate of Eugenics in Russia
Nikolai Krementsov | September 2018
696 | 49 b&w illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783745111
ISBN Hardback: 9781783745128
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783745135
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783745142
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783745159
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783746217
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0144
Categories: BIC: PDX (History of science), PDR (Impact of science and technology on society), BGT (Biography: science, technology and medicine); BISAC: SCI034000 (SCIENCE / History), HIS010010 (HISTORY / Europe / Eastern), HIS037060 (HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century), POL060000 (POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Russian & Former Soviet Union); OCLC Number: 1056677315.

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List of Abbreviations
List of Illustrations
Note on Names, Transliterations, and Translations

The Faces of Eugenics: Local Mirrors and Global Reflections


1. The Author: Vasilii Florinskii
2. The Publisher: Grigorii Blagosvetlov
3. The Book: Darwinism and Social Hygiene
4. The Hereafter: Words and Deeds


5. Rebirth: Eugenics and Marxism
6. Resonance: Euphenics, Medical Genetics, and Rassenhygiene
7. Afterlife: Medical Genetics and "Racial” Eugenics
8. Science of the Future: With and Without Galton

Apologia: The Historian’s Craft

Nikolai Krementsov is a Professor at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto (Canada). He has published several monographs and numerous articles on various facets of the history of science, medicine, and literature in Russia and the Soviet Union. His latest publications include A Martian Stranded on Earth: Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science (2011), Revolutionary Experiments: The Quest for Immortality in the Bolshevik Science and Fiction (2014), and The Lysenko Controversy as a Global Phenomenon (2017), 2 vols. (co-edited with William deJong-Lambert).