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  • A Martian Stranded on Earth: Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science by Nikolai Krementsov
  • Jennifer Rogers, A.B.D.

Alexander Bogdanov, Soviet science, Soviet medicine, blood transfusion

Nikolai Krementsov . A Martian Stranded on Earth: Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science. Chicago, Illinois, The University of Chicago Press, 2011. xiii, 175 pp., $35.00.

Nikolai Krementsov's A Martian Stranded on Earth explores how Soviet science developed in the 1920s by examining the life and career of Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian revolutionary, science fiction writer, and [End Page 313] pioneer in Soviet hematology. Krementsov links Bogdanov with the way that the science of blood transfusions developed in the Soviet Union and how it was representative of the development of Soviet science in general.

Krementsov, in the second chapter "Transfusions," gives a good general history of blood transfusions in the Soviet Union in the 1910s through the 1920s. This provides the medical background for the rest of the book. Next, Krementsov discusses the three sides of Alexander Bogdanov: the revolutionary, the science fiction author, and the physician/scientist.

Krementsov concludes that in all of Bogdanov's writings, Bogdanov was making and defining what proletarian science would be for the Soviet Union. For Krementsov, Bogdanov's ideas about how science would develop influenced how proletarian science came about in the Soviet Union. Krementsov's delineation of Bogdanov's proletarian scientific view is one of this book's major contributions to the history of science and medicine.

Krementsov writes how Bogdanov first used his idea of physiological collectivism in his science fiction novel Red Star: A Utopia and Engineer Menni, with the exchange of blood between two Martians for the purpose of rejuvenation. Krementsov's Chapter 4 of A Martian Stranded on Earth, "Earthly Realities," shows that in the Soviet Union, during the 1920s, there was actual fear that the health of state officials was declining and Bogdanov was able to convince them that his idea of rejuvenation through regular blood exchanges could be a way of improving the health of Soviet officials. By demonstrating that Bogdanov continued his ideas of physiological collectivism in all of his subsequent writings and endeavors, Krementsov is further augmenting his argument that Bogdanov was trying to establish that science in the Soviet Union would be done within a proletarian context.

Kremenstov's strongest contributions in a Martian Stranded on Earth are his history of blood transfusions, their science in the Soviet Union, and how the Institute of Blood Transfusion was created during Bogdanov's life time. The section on the state of blood science is interesting because in it, Krementsov gives the reader a clear picture of Soviet science in the early 1900s through the 1920s through the lens of Soviet blood science. This section on the development of Soviet hematology, or as it was commonly referred to the in the Soviet Union "blood science," and blood transfusions also contributes to the history of Soviet science, specifically in that it shows how Soviet science developed on its own and how it developed unique characteristics because it was Soviet. Krementsov demonstrates the scientific side of Sheila Fitzpatrick's main argument in Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York, Oxford University Press, 1999) that Soviet ideologies were not only being formed in the 1920s [End Page 314] but that they began to be manifest in every aspect of Soviet life. Krementsov's discussion of how Bogdanov's specific institute developed shows Bogdanov's idea of proletarian science in action. This idea of proletarian science and its potential influence on Soviet science should be explored by historians in future research.

Krementsov argues that Alexander Bogdanov was developing his views of what science should look like in a communist state as evidenced by Bogdanov's three personas and the development of The Institute for Blood Transfusion and proletarian science. By adding detail about the medical procedures and the actual research that Bogdanov was doing with blood science, the author's argument of the development of proletarian science would be stronger. Also adding more about Bogdanov's research would be interesting and beneficial to the author's goal of showing the...


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pp. 313-315
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