THE LIVES OF ALEXANDER LURIA
CONSIDER two scientific careers. In the first, a gifted adolescent demonstrates an ability to do quality research in psychology, starts his own psychoanalytic discussion group, and launches a journal. By his early twenties he has mastered the psychological literature in several languages and corresponded with the great figures of his time, including Freud. During the next four decades he carries out brilliant investigations into the thought processes and emotions of children, criminals, Russian peasants, identical twins, and brain-damaged and retarded patients. By the last years of his life, he is beyond question the most distinguished psychologist in the Soviet Union.
The second career starts with a dynamic young researcher who is attempting to make a place for himself. Every time he chooses a field, he is forced by political considerations to abandon it and to move on to another that he knows little about. He is summarily fired from jobs, criticized and ridiculed in the press. He is heard praising scholars whom he considers fraudulent, while denouncing others whom he is known to admire. He comes to renounce even some of his own writings and to regard all of his good ideas as coming from others. By the end of his life, he considers his contribution totally ordinary and unremarkable.
Both these descriptions fit Alexander Romanovich Luria, who, after