It is no exaggeration to say that Vygotsky was a genius. Through more than five decades in science I never again met a person who even approached his clearness of mind, his ability to lay bare the essential structure of complex problems, his breadth of knowledge in many fields, and his ability to foresee the future development of his science.
We met early in I924 at the Second Psychoneurological Congress in Leningrad. This gathering was the most important forum at that time for Soviet scientists who worked in the general area of psychology. Kornilov brought along from the Institute of Psychology several of his younger colleagues, among whom I was included.
When Vygotsky got up to deliver his speech, he had no printed text from which to read, not even notes. Yet he spoke fluently, never seeming to stop and search his memory for the next idea. Even had the content of his speech been pedestrian, his performance would have been notable for the persuasiveness of his style. But his speech was by no means pedestrian. Instead of choosing a minor theme, as might befit a young man of twenty-eight speaking for the first time to a gathering of the graybeards of his profession, Vygotsky chose the difficult theme of the relation between conditioned reflexes and man’s conscious behavior.