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A Martian Stranded on Earth

Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science

Much like Vladimir Lenin, his onetime rival for the leadership of the Bolshevik party during its formative years, Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928) was a visionary. In two science fiction novels set on Mars, Bogdanov imagined a future in which the workers of the world, liberated from capitalist exploitation, create a “physiological collective” that rejuvenates and unites its members through regular blood exchanges. But Bogdanov was not merely a dreamer. He worked tirelessly to popularize and realize his vision, founding the first research institute devoted to the science of blood transfusion.


In A Martian Stranded on Earth, the first broad-based book on Bogdanov in English, Nikolai Krementsov examines Bogdanov’s roles as revolutionary, novelist, and scientist, presenting his protagonist as a coherent thinker who pursued his ideas in a wide range of venues. Through the lens of Bogdanov’s involvement with blood studies on one hand, and of his fictional and philosophical writings on the other, Krementsov offers a nuanced analysis of the interactions between scientific ideas and societal values. 

192 pages | 11 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2011

History: European History

History of Science



“[This] compact biography is the first to place Bogdanov’s three personae—literary, philosophical, and scientific—vividly and accurately in context.”

Muireann Maguire | Times Literary Supplement

“Utterly compelling. . . . Krementsov provides a fascinating account of Bogdanov, deftly weaving together the three main strands of his activities to show how each influenced the reader. Highly recommended.”

N. M. Brooks | Choice

“Krementsov’s account is absorbing and full of fascinating detail.”


“This book is a fascinating piece of not just archival but also intellectual detective work, linking experimental blood transfusions, utopian science fiction, and revolutionary politics in the life work of Lenin’s old rival. Krementsov’s recovery of the significance of proletarian science, for Bogdanov and more generally, deserves to be considered by scholars from many disciplines.”

Michael David-Fox, University of Maryland

A Martian Stranded on Earth is the only major work on Bogdanov that fully treats his diverse activities (as revolutionary, ideologist, philosopher, physician, scientist, organization theorist, administrator, and novelist) as richly interconnected. Bogdanov emerges as a consistent, coherent thinker who explored his ideas in a wide range of venues. This is a splendid little gem of a book.”­­—Mark B. Adams, University of Pennsylvania

Mark B. Adams, University of Pennsylvania

“Nikolai Krementsov has written a fascinating and substantial book that brings together the specialized topic of blood transfusion and the enormous subject of societal revolution. Transformation through transfusion became a nostrum for overcoming the ‘Soviet exhaustion’ of party leaders and the extension of life itself. The demise of Alexander Bogdanov’s scheme of ‘blood exchange’ was a result both of the scientific weakness of the project itself and the decline of Soviet utopian dreams.”

Loren Graham, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Bogdanov was a central figure in the political and scientific revolutions of his day—as Lenin’s rival for power, a writer of science fiction, and a visionary biologist. In this readable and compelling tale, Krementsov draws upon rich archival sources to use Bogdanov’s adventures with blood transfusion as the axis of an original and synthetic account not only of a fascinating figure but of the politics, science, and medicine of revolutionary Russia.”

Daniel P. Todes, The Johns Hopkins University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Note on Translation and Transliteration

Genealogy and Acknowledgments

1. Revolutions: The Big Science of Visionary Biology

2. Transfusions: Ideas, People, and Places

3. Voyagers: To Mars and Back

4. Earthly Realities: The Health of the Ruling Elite

5. Struggles for Viability: Proletarian Science in Action

6. Blood and Socialism: The Death of a Hero

7. Lessons and Legacies: A Martian on Earth

List of Abbreviations




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