Levytsky, Hryhorii A.

Levytsky, Hryhorii A. or Lewitsky [Левицький, Григорій; Levyc'kyj, Hryhorij], b 19 November 1878 in Bilky, near Popilnia, Skvyra county, Kyiv gubernia, d 20 May 1942 in a GULAG labor camp, Zlatoust, Cheliabinsk oblast, RSFSR. Botanist, cytologist, and cytogeneticist; corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1932). A graduate of the biology faculty of Kyiv University in 1902, where he studied with the cytologist S. Navashin, he began teaching in 1904 at the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute. He was arrested in 1907 for his involvement with the All-Russian Union of Peasants and exiled abroad for four years. While working at the Russian marine biological station at Villefranche-sur-Mer and in the laboratory of E. Strasburger at the University of Bonn, Levytsky studied the ‘chondriosomes’ (mitochondria) of plant cells, developed fixative techniques, worked out the microscopic organization of plant cells, and observed their continuity through cell division. After his return to Kyiv in 1911, Levytsky was a professor at the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute until 1921, when he was charged with Ukrainian nationalism and dismissed by the Bolsheviks. In 1922–5 he directed the cytology laboratory of the Ukrainian Sugar Trust and organized the trust’s Scientific Selection Institute. He wrote one of the first textbooks in the field of cytogenetics, The Material Basis of Heredity (1924), and redefined the terms ‘karyotype’ and ‘idiogram’ in their modern sense.

In 1925 Nikolai Vavilov invited Levytsky to establish the laboratory of cytology at the new All-Union Institute of Plant Breeding in Leningrad. Levytsky worked there for the remainder of his career, investigating the cytological effects of X rays. He became a professor at the Peterhof Agricultural Institute and taught there in 1930–2 and 1938–41. He also taught in the department of plant genetics at Leningrad University (1932–40). As the country’s leading plant cytogeneticist Levytsky came into conflict with Trokhym Lysenko. In early 1941 Levytsky was arrested; he was never heard of again.

Rubtsova, Zoia. Razvitie evoliutsionnoi tsitogenetiki rastenii v SSSR (1920–1940-e gody) (Leningrad 1975)

Mark Adams

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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