They Starved Surrounded By Food

From Vsauce2.

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The life, death, and legacy of Russian geneticist Nikolai Vavilov isn’t just one of the most compelling science stories of the 20th century — it’s a combination of scientific progress, human resilience, and a celebration of both the scientific and human spirits.

Vavilov’s tumultuous career in biology and genetics flowed from Vladimir Lenin’s support to Trofim Lysenko’s hostility to Joseph Stalin’s outright persecution. And while Vavilov himself succumbed to Stalin’s scapegoating and purges, his groundbreaking efforts to create a global seedbank for the betterment of mankind inspired his peers to endure suffering beyond comprehension in the service of science.

The staff of Vavilov’s plant institute endured the nearly 3-year Siege of Leningrad: no heat, no safety, and most importantly, no sustenance. But while the rest of the city struggled to survive in conditions of starvation, Vavilov’s peers and staff were actually surrounded by the one thing that would keep them alive: food.

Dozens of scientists met their deaths to protect Vavilov’s vision despite protecting tons of the exact material that would keep them alive.

They did it for Vavilov, they did it for humanity, and they did it for science.


"The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov" by Peter Pringle:

"Stalin and the Scientists: A History of Triumph and Tragedy" by Simon Ings:

"The Scientist, the Imposter and Stalin" from Icarus Films:

"The Man Who Haunts Science" by Vsauce2:

"The Scapegoat Mechanism" by Vsauce2:

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Hosted and Produced by Kevin Lieber

Research and Writing by Matthew Tabor

Editing by John Swan

Huge Thanks To Paula Lieber

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