Michael D. Gordin is Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University, and Director of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. After earning his doctorate from Harvard University and serving a term at the Harvard Society of Fellows, he moved to Princeton, where he teaches the history of modern science and Russian history. He is the author of five monographs, ranging from a biography of D. I. Mendeleev, who formulated the periodic system of chemical elements in 1869, to two studies on the early history of nuclear weapons, to a global history of the languages of science. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Project Summary

At the time of its dissolution, the Soviet Union possessed the largest national infrastructure for science in the world. By any metric (citations, expenditures, prestige, recognition), the Russian Federation possesses only a fraction of the former capacity. The end of the Soviet Union led to a fundamental transformation both of science within Russia and the other Soviet successor states — primarily in the form of contraction — as well as incorporation of many émigrés into leading scientific countries around the world. As science in Russia receded, global science acquired a significantly more Russian character. The retrenchment and redistribution of scientific expertise of such a magnitude and geographic scale is unprecedented. This research project investigates the ramifications of the dissolution of the Soviet science system along several dimensions: the brain drain, the space program, concerns about proliferation of nuclear expertise, restructuring of scientific institutions, and geopolitical reorientations.

Major Publications

Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done before and after Global English (University of Chicago Press, 2015)
Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009)
Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (Princeton University Press, 2007)