Loren Graham’s Ghost of an Executed Engineer features engineer Peter Palchinksy, severe critic of the former Soviet Union’s 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 Union’s continued technological mistakes in the sixty years following Palchinsky’s 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 Palchinsky’s 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 bravery."
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 Plato’s Apology might compare Palchinsky’s 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 one’s professional integrity?
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