Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was a prominent Russian and Soviet agronomist, botanist and geneticist best known for having identified the centers of origin of cultivated plants. He devoted his life to the study and improvement of wheat, maize and other cereal crops that sustain the global population. Vavilov's work was criticized by Trofim Lysenko, whose anti-Mendelian concepts of plant biology had won favor with Joseph Stalin.
As a result, Vavilov was arrested and subsequently sentenced to death in July 1941. Although his sentence was commuted to twenty years' imprisonment, he died in prison in 1943. In 1955 his death sentence was retroactively pardoned under Nikita Khrushchev. By the 1960s his reputation was publicly rehabilitated and he began to be hailed as a hero of Soviet science.