Recently I started re-watching (/playing in the background whilst I work) the Sci-Fi series Andromeda.

In the first series I come to an episode with a familiar sounding premise. The heroes arrive on a planet inhabited by people who pass on memories through the generations. That is, if you have a kid, that kid remembers everything that you remember up to the point it was conceived.

Now, Andromeda is an old series, it's from the turn of the millennium. But this sounds awfully familiar to me.... Assassin's Creed much?

The entire premise of the Assassin's Creed games is based on the idea that locked within our genetic code is the memories of our ancestors and with a special machine these can be unlocked and explored.

It strikes me that an idea such as this cannot possibly have came from an episode of a low budget early 2000s science fiction show. That Andromeda and Assassin's Creed must be taking their influence from earlier works.

Does anyone know where this idea originates? Are there any other prominent examples of it in practice?

  • Lots of examples that pre-date Andromeda here – Valorum Mar 11 '17 at 13:47
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    It's an old, old concept, basically just a migration of the idea that instincts are passed along, it's not a long step to suggest more complex behaviors and mental constructs can be as well. Don't think it predates SFF genre, but may well originate outside it. – Radhil Mar 11 '17 at 13:55
  • I was going to answer your question, but I see that they've closed it as a duplicate, so I posted my answers to that old question. – user14111 Mar 12 '17 at 9:06

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a Soviet agrobiologist. Lysenko was a strong proponent of soft inheritance -- offspring could acquire learned behavior from their parents' genetic code -- and rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of pseudoscientific ideas termed Lysenkoism. Lysenkoism was a late addition to the "inheritance of soft characteristics" and was considered a branch of Lamarckism. This as made official biological dogma in the USSR in 1948.

You can see the attractiveness of this idea, especially for tyrants whose people who have grown up accepting their role in an authoritarian state. Make one generation totally accepting and you are more or less set for a long stable dictatorship.


Trofim Lysenko biography https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko

Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquired_characteristics

Lamarckism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism

Lysenkoism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

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    I think the OP is asking about its roots in science fiction. – Gallifreyan Mar 11 '17 at 14:45
  • The idea was floating around in the 1930s and the 1940s, so the origin of the idea in science fiction could be as early some of the stories published in Hugo Grensback's magazines. Since Lamarck did not originate the idea, it could be used in stories from at least the late 19th century. – Yoshi Bro Mar 13 '17 at 5:07

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