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The Perversion of Knowledge


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About the Author

Vadim J. Birstein, Ph.D., a Russian-American geneticist and historian, is the author of more than 140 scientific papers and monographs. A member of the Russian Academy of Science for over twenty years, he was a dissident who experienced firsthand the cruelty of the Soviet regime's control of science. He lives in New York City.


Russian-American geneticist and historian Birstein's first trade book is the story of "the state control of science in the Soviet Union." A comprehensive history of how Russian scientists were ruled by their government from the Bolshevik revolution through its post-perestroika present, the volume focuses especially on doctors who conducted state-authorized experiments on political prisoners while developing poisons and chemical weaponry that were eventually used in a rash of political assassinations during the 1950s and '60s by way of covert weapons such as umbrella tips and poisoned bullets. But very little of this material reads like an Ian Fleming novel; it's more like a college textbook. With over 100 pages of notes, biographical sketches and translated materials, the text is so finely detailed that it runs the risk of confusing readers with its sheer volume of information. Moreover, most of the original documents Birstein relies upon are still classified and "these documents are... frequently written in a special metaphoric language used by NKVD/KGB offices. Only since 1997 have three fundamental reference books been published in Russian that have allowed me to put the events in Soviet science into historical context." These shortcomings are unfortunate, as the subject of state secrecy and chemical weapons development is both important and timely. In uncovering the Soviet labyrinth of plot and secrecy, Birstein builds labyrinths of his own and casual readers might not be willing to wind their way through to the end. (Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"A well-documented and highly disquieting tour through the abominations of Soviet science."

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