Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home


A New Principle of Evolution

Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky

Edited by Lynn Margulis
Edited and translated by Victor Fet

ISBN 9780674050457

Publication date: 06/15/2010

More than eighty years ago, before we knew much about the structure of cells, Russian botanist Boris Kozo-Polyansky brilliantly outlined the concept of symbiogenesis, the symbiotic origin of cells with nuclei. It was a half-century later, only when experimental approaches that Kozo-Polyansky lacked were applied to his hypotheses, that scientists began to accept his view that symbiogenesis could be united with Darwin's concept of natural selection to explain the evolution of life. After decades of neglect, ridicule, and intellectual abuse, Kozo-Polyansky's ideas are now endorsed by virtually all biologists.

Kozo-Polyansky's seminal work is presented here for the first time in an outstanding annotated translation, updated with commentaries, references, and modern micrographs of symbiotic phenomena.


  • The differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes are much more deep and fundamental than, for example, those between higher animals and higher plants. Numerous facts, especially those from cytology of simplest eukaryotic organisms, support the views of Kozo-Polyansky—Margulis. The eukaryotic cell, compared to a prokaryotic cell, is already rather some sort of "supercell." A specific "assembly" of a complex eukaryotic system from already largely "prefabricated parts" took place during the process of evolution.

    —Armen Takhtajan, Komarov Botanical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences


  • Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky (1890–1957) graduated from Moscow University and in 1918 joined a Soviet university in his native Voronezh where he became a vice-president as well as director of the local botanical garden.
  • Victor Fet is Professor of Biology at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.
  • Lynn Margulis was Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.
  • Peter H. Raven is George Engelmann Professor Emeritus of Botany, Washington University in St. Louis, and President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press
  • Introduction by Peter H. Raven