Nikolai Vavilov with Dr. Joel Cohen


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“Varietal Timelines and Leadership Challenges Affecting the Legacy of Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov” with Dr. Joel Cohen

Nikolai Vavilov was an agronomist and seed collector whose life spanned the regimes of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. These were years plagued by extreme famine, especially in the Ukraine. Vavilov strove to follow Mendelian science and practices to improve plant breeding programs, seed conservation, and food security. He travelled to and collected seed from over 50 countries in his lifetime and was the founder of one of the world’s oldest seed banks; however, he died defamed and imprisoned, with his name struck from the history books. This episode, in honor of seed week, Dr. Joel Cohen joins us to discuss Vavilov’s work, the ongoing work to restore his reputation, and why his legacy matters today.

Tune in to learn:

  • What the four phases of Vavilov’s life were
  • What challenges he faced during his lifetime
  • The fate of several of his colleagues during the siege of Leningrad
  • How Vavilov has been honored and rehabilitated since his death

If you would like more information about this topic, this episode’s paper is available here:

It will be freely available from 22 March to 5 April, 2021.

This podcast is part of the Societies Seed Week, which will be running from March 22-26, 2021. Check out the Seed Week link below, where you’ll find links to papers, k-12 activities, videos, news stories, blogs, and more.

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Contact us at or on Twitter @FieldLabEarth if you have comments, questions, or suggestions for show topics, and if you want more content like this don’t forget to subscribe.

If you would like to reach out to Joel, you can find him here:


CEU Quiz:

Societies’ Seed Week Home Page:

The Origin, Variation, Immunity and Breeding of Cultivated Plants. N. I. Vavilov; trans. from the Russian by K. Starr Chester:

Where Our Food Comes From by Gary Nabhan:,the%20cultures%20that%20tend%20them

The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov by Peter Pringle:

Commemorating Nikolai I. Vavilov, ROSSICA, Journal of the Rossica Society of Russian Philately. Spring 2019, No. 172: 119-125:

Cohen, J.I. and I. Loskutov. Exploring the nature of science through courage and purpose: a case study of Nikolai Vavilov. SpringerPlus:

The rise, fall and resurrection of Russian seed bank pioneer Nikolai Vavilov. Genetic Literacy Project July 17th, 2020:

Biodiversity International:

Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture:

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