Loren Grahams Ghost of an Executed Engineer features engineer Peter
Palchinksy, severe critic of the former Soviet Unions projects and policies in the
1920's. Graham portrays Palchinsky as a visionary and prophetic engineer. The
"ghost" of Palchinsky, Graham suggests, can be seen in the Soviet Unions
continued technological mistakes in the sixty years following Palchinskys execution
in 1930, culminating in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991.
Ironically, while praising Palchinsky for his integrity, forthrightness, and vision,
Graham ends his book with a mixed verdict: "It is quite probable that
Palchinskys execution resulted from his refusal, even under torture, to confess to
crimes he did not commit. Palchinsky always prided himself on being a rational engineer.
One can question whether his final act was rational, but one cannot question its
Discuss the question of whether it can be rational to being willing to die rather than
confess to crimes to which one has not committed. (Those familiar with Platos Apology
might compare Palchinskys situation with Socrates, who also gave up his life rather
than compromise his integrity.) How much personal sacrifice should one be willing to make
in order to maintain ones professional integrity?