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Records of the Laboratory (RG5)
5.8 linear feet (6 boxes)


Igor Nicholas Asheshov (1891-1961) was a Russian bacteriologist and educator who specialized in research on bacterial viruses. Born in Nijzni Novogrod, Russia on August 13, 1891, he attended Prince Tenishev's School in Petrograd, graduated in 1916 from the Saratov Imperial University, and did post-graduate work from 1918 to 1920 at the Central Bacteriological Laboratory of the Armies of South Russia where he conducted research on typhus. In 1928 the Government of British India invited him to take over d'Herelle's research work on the cholera bacteriophage in India. In 1935 he became Research Officer for the Medical Research Council in London. After two years in this post he immigrated to Canada to join the Faculty of Medicine (Department of Bacteriology and Immunology) at the University of Western Ontario as Associate Professor.

Dr. Asheshov worked at the New York Botanical Garden from 1948 to 1953 as Bacteriologist-in-Charge of research on inhibition of bacterial viruses under the direction of William Jacob Robbins. Asheshov directed experimental programs at the NYBG to isolate and identify bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) in the search for substances to combat influenza, poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis), and other human diseases. In his research Asheshov screened cultures of microscopic fungi, like Aspergillus fumigatus and species of Streptomyces, and actinomycetes (filamentous bacteria) to develop antibiotics for use as therapeutic agents.

A critical part of Asheshov's research was funded by grants from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to find antibiotics to inhibit or destroy the polio virus. In this program he and his colleagues Marjorie Anchel, Helen Flon, Elizabeth A. Hall, Frederick Kavanaugh, and Freda Strelitz screened antibiotic chemicals grown in culture against a wide range of bacterial viruses and developed methods for their production. He directed tests of the antiviral Phagopedin sigma (fumagillin) and demonstrated its activity against a variety of streptococci bacilli. The team also isolated the antibiotics Phagolessin A58, Nybomycin, and Chrysomycin. Though these were not the final breakthrough in the search for a cure for polio, all were important contributions to the fields of bacteriology and antibiotic medicine.

Concurrent with his NYBG position, Asheshov held a faculty appointment at Columbia University as a Lecturer in Botany, teaching the course "The Biology of Bacterial Viruses." At the cessation of funding by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, he continued his work from 1953 to 1954 under a grant from the American Cancer Society. He then joined the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine in London, England. He died in London September 3, 1961. Dr. Asheshov published over 40 scientific papers on bacteriology, seven of which relate to his research at the NYBG.


The Igor Nicholas Asheshov collection consists of correspondence, research and laboratory records, typescripts, photography, and progress reports of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, covering the years of his association and research with the NYBG.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Research Papers
Series 3: Typescripts
Series 4: Bacteriophage Group
Series 5: Antiphage Group
Series 6: National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
Series 7: Photography

Series 1    Correspondence, 1948-1953
                  0.6 linear ft. Arranged alphabetically

There are 59 files of correspondence with research associates at universities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and the NYBG (Helen Flon, Elizabeth Hall, B. O. Dodge, William Robbins, and Freda Strelitz). Correspondents include Joshua Lederberg, Robert S. de Ropp, and Jonas Salk as well as pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Lederle Laboratories, Merck, and Parke, Davis. Subject matter pertains to exchanges of culture strains, discussions of the epidemiology and biochemistry of diseases, and the production of antibiotics.

Series 2    Research Papers, 1948-1955
                  0.5 linear ft. Arranged alphabetically

The research papers consist of 14 files relating to antibiotic substances, culture media, laboratory methods, and an index to bacteriological literature. There is 1 file of research notes on the experiments of Elizabeth A. Hall (1948-1950).

Series 3    Typescripts, 1942-1958
                  0.2 linear ft. Arranged alphabetically

There are 9 files, three of which are typescripts of published articles and one of a copy of the doctoral dissertation (1942) of John Spizizen.

Series 4    Bacteriophage Group, 1949-1953
                  0.8 linear ft. Arranged chronologically

There are 7 files of experimental data on "Active Actinomycetes" and "Inactive Actinomycetes." All contain a numbered series of tables of laboratory records of bacteriophage experiments presenting information on culture strains, media, and chronological progress.

Series 5    Antiphage Group, 1951-1956
                  1.9 linear ft. Arranged chronologically

There are 34 files of experiment data consisting of tables formerly collected in loose-leaf notebooks. Some files are titled with experiment numbers. There are three subject files dealing with various fungi.

Series 6    National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, 1947-1951
                  1.8 linear ft. Arranged chronologically

There are 11 files of abstracts of bi-annual progress reports issued by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Inc. to its Committee on Virus Research & Epidemiology which comprised all NFIP participant institutions that were grantees (indexed by grant number) engaged in polio research. As a grantee, the NYBG (grant number CVRE #70) is listed in each index with reference to its abstract within. Summary reports of Asheshov's research are filed under "NYBG" and "William J. Robbins." The reports contain information on experiments, antiphage action, antibiotic surveys, chemical studies, and antibiotic production. There is one report on cancer research and two files on conferences relating to Asheshov's research findings.

Series 7    Photography, undated
                  One file

There is one file of mounted photos relating to an article published in the American Journal of Botany by Robert S. de Ropp of Lederle Laboratories.


New York Botanical Garden

RG5 William Jacob Robbins Records, 1918-1978

RG5 Marjorie Anchel Records, 1931-1978

Processed September 1999 by David Rose under a grant from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.

For more information and a complete description contact
Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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