ISSN 1062-3604, Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, 2007, Vol. 38, No. 5, pp. 332–334. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2007.
Original Russian Text © M.E. Aspiz, 2007, published in Ontogenez, 2007, Vol. 38, No. 5, pp. 397–400.
Alas, the jubilee without the person! Twenty two
years ago, the outstanding geneticist and biochemist
Roman B. Khesin-Lurie passed away. During this time,
the science, naturally, progressed. But, nevertheless,
the work of this scientist did not lose its scientiﬁc value.
The aim of this essay is not analysis of the scientiﬁc
contribution of Khesin, which will be done by his stu-
dents and followers, but brief survey of his life reﬂect-
ing, to a great extent, both the history of our country
and history of biology.
Khesin was born on March 24, 1922 in a family of
physicians. His father, Professor V. R. Khesin, headed
the Department of Surgery at the 1st Moscow Medical
Institute and his mother, Dr. Med. M. E. Lurie, was a
microbiologist and also graduated from the Conserva-
tory. He inherited from his parents not only their names
but also the interest and devotion to science.
Still at the secondary school, at the age of 12, he
made a complete synopsis of Darwin’s “Origin of Spe-
cies”. At the age of 13 years he began writing down
diverse biological information, including even citations
from Morgan’s work on gene determination. And, quite
understandably, he came to the study group of young
biologists of the Moscow Zoo. And it is not surprising
that to the usual question “What brought you here?” he
gave not the trivial answer about the love to animals,
but said about his interest to Darwinism. In this study
group, he ﬁrst studied reptiles but then switched to hel-
minths and worked during long hours with a micro-
scope and received a nickname “professor”.
In 1939, Khesin entered the Biological Faculty of
the Moscow State University. From the very beginning
he regularly attended seminars at the Department of
Genetics and very soon started experimental work. At
the same time he was a constant participant of various
trips, excursions, and ski and walking tours. During his
ﬁrst summer vacation, he made a bicycle trip from
Moscow to Leningrad and back and wandered in Cau-
casus for a month. He spent his 2nd year winter vaca-
tion at the Lapland Reserve.
The Great Patriotic War began in summer. Khesin
joined the army as a volunteer secretly from his parents,
just as his elder brother Eugene, a 4th year student of the
Historical Faculty. Each of them wanted to join the army
and believed that the other will remain with the parents.
Eugene was killed in the very beginning of war.
During the war, there was an order about responsi-
bility for the weapons left to the enemy. There was a
period of positional actions in the unit where Khesin
served. A machine-gun was left on the no man’s land,
between two lines of trenches, when its crew were
killed. All attempts to bring the machine-gun back
failed, since the enemies opened ﬁre at the smallest
movement. Khesin succeeded to crawl to the machine-
gun in the darkness, attach a long wire to it, and return
to his trench unnoticed. As the wire was pulled, the ene-
mies opened ﬁre but nobody suffered. The division
commander declared that the hero of this operation
would be awarded the Red Star order, but Khesin
thanked him formally and said that he would better get
tobacco. The surprised commander ordered to give him
two tobacco packets instead.
After the war, Professor Serebrovsky read his poem
dedicated to Khesin at one of the parties, with the
words: “and he is alone with the machine-gun”.
Khesin was twice wounded. After the ﬁrst wound,
he returned to the army very soon. But the second
wound, very heavy, made him to stay in the hospital in
Torzhok. His future wife Maria E. Varga, with whom
To the 85th anniversary of Roman B. Khesin-Lurie