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Kenneth Bryan Raper (1908-1987)

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53.7 linear feet (106 boxes)


Kenneth Bryan Raper (1908-1987) was a mycologist, microbiologist, and botanist whose contributions to the medical and industrial applications of fungi of the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium stand among the outstanding achievements of twentieth-century science. Of equal importance was his identification of a cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, in 1935 that led to four decades of research and publication on a group of organisms (Dictyostelids and Acrasids) that have wide applications in microbiology.

Kenneth Raper was born in Welcome, North Carolina on July 11, 1908. He gained his A.B. at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill 1929), A.M. at George Washington University (1931), and A.M. (1935) and Ph.D. (1936) at Harvard University. Later in his career he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina. As a mycologist, he began his professional career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bureau of Chemistry and Soils (1929-36) and Bureau of Plant Industry (1936-40). Here he met Dr. Charles Thom, who became his mentor and key collaborator in his work. Thom and Raper co-authored the classic monographs A Manual of the Aspergilli (1945) and A Manual of the Penicillia (1949).

From 1940 to 1953 Dr. Raper served as microbiologist at the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) in Peoria, Illinois. In 1940, upon a visit from British scientists Raymond Florey and Ronald Heatley, seeking to develop methods of large-scale penicillin production for the war effort, Raper and his associates initiated a research program at NRRL of historic importance. Beginning with a Penicillium strain from Alexander Fleming, the NRRL "Penicillin Team" went on to develop increasing yields of penicillin in submerged culture which was of critical therapeutic impact for World War II combat injuries and which launched the "Age of Antibiotics."

After an appointment as visiting professor at the University of Illinois (1946-53), Dr. Raper left the USDA in 1953 to become Professor of Bacteriology and Botany at the University of Wisconsin. He was William Trelease Professor from 1966 to 1979. During this stage of his career he pursued research into the life histories, cytology, and taxonomy of the Dictyosteliaceae, which culminated in the publication The Dictyostelids in 1984. He also published The Genus Aspergillus with Dorothy I. Fennell in 1965.

Dr. Raper served as chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Botanical Congress XI (1969), chairman and delegate to four General Assemblies of the International Union of Biological Sciences, trustee of the American Type Culture Collection (1948-62), and member of an Executive Committee of the National Research Council (1956-61). He was a member of the National Academy of Science (1949), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1949), and the American Philosophical Society (1958). Among his many honors and distinctions, he received the USDA Distinguished Service Award (1947), the Distinguished Mycologist Award of the Mycological Society of America (1981), and was the first recipient of the Charles Thom Award from the Society of Industrial Microbiology (1967). Dr. Kenneth Raper died in 1987 at the age of 79.


The Kenneth B. Raper collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts and typescripts, organizational records, personal papers, and research records that include notebooks, laboratory records, photographs, negatives, lantern slides, Kodachrome slides, movie film, photo-engraving plates, and microscopic specimen material. The collection covers Dr. Raper's career from his graduate work at Harvard University (1935-1936) to employment with the USDA Bureau of Chemistry and Soils and Bureau of Plant Industry (1929-1940), association with the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory (1940-1953), and faculty appointments at the University of Illinois (1946-1953) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1953-1979). Correspondence and organizational records of his affiliations with the International Botanical Congress XI (1969), American Type Culture Collection (1948-1962), International Union of Biological Sciences (1958-1967), and other professional scientific organizations are well represented.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts
Series 3: Translations
Series 4: Affiliations
Series 5: Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL)
Series 6: University of Wisconsin
Series 7: Course Curricula
Series 8: Class Notes
Series 9: Lectures and Talks
Series 10: Research Grants
Series 11: Research Papers
Series 12: Personal Papers
Series 13: Photographic Material
Series 14: Specimen Material

Series 1    Correspondence, 1928-1986
                  7.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

The correspondence consists of 5 boxes of files titled by individual, organization, or subject, covering Dr. Raper's career from graduate studies at Harvard University to his associations with the USDA and University of Wisconsin. The correspondence pertains to microbiological and mycological research, culture exchanges, professional and academic affiliations, advisement of students, publication, and business consulting. Notable correspondents include John T. Bonner, James C. Cavender, William T. Clark, Robert D. Coghill, Dorothy I. Fennell, Norman Heatley, Lindsay S. Olive, John R. Raper (his brother), and William H. Weston. There are subject files on The Dictyostelids, Harvard University, International Botanical Congresses, and revisions of A Manual of the Aspergilli and A Manual of the Penicillia. Correspondence relevant to specific affiliations and appointments may be found in Series 4: Affiliations; Series 5: NRRL; Series 6: University of Washington; Series 10: Research Grants; and Series 11: Research Papers.

Series 2    Manuscripts and Typescripts, 1941-1986
                  3.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author.

There are 2 boxes of manuscripts and typescripts of articles published by Dr. Raper and other scientists in fields of research relating to the Aspergilli, Penicillia, and Dictyosteliaceae. Several of these were composed in association with his colleagues and students. Notable authors here are John T. Bonner, Dorothy I. Fennell, Lindsay S. Olive, and Charles Thom. In some cases, correspondence and annotated reprints accompany manuscript material. Files are identified by author, title, and date (if known). A few files contain typescripts of M.A. or Ph.D. theses. Photographs used for text figures in published articles may be found in Series 13: Photographic Material. File names in Series 13 bear the same titles as the corresponding manuscript files of Series 2 wherever possible.

One sequence (Box #8) consists of manuscripts and typescripts of Dr. Raper's landmark study of the Dictyosteliaceae published in 1984. Files are arranged in the sequence of chapters appearing in the published text. In Part II "Systematics," files are arranged alphabetically by family and genus name, again as appearing in the text. See Series 13: Photographic Material for photos (mounted and unmounted) for text figures. The mounted photographs (Box #27) form a complete series of text figures.

Series 3    Translations, 1951-1969
                  0.8 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 23 files of translations of articles on the Dictyosteliaceae that were published in German and French scientific journals. The translations were done by Dr. Raper or by students under his direction. The material consists of manuscripts, typescripts, annotated reprints, and photocopies. The translations are of classic articles in the history of cellular slime mold studies, e.g., Oscar Brefeld and Ph. van Tieghem, and of modern investigators, e.g., Gunther Gerisch.

Series 4    Affiliations, 1947-1985
                  4.1 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

These records pertain to affiliations with professional scientific organizations such as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Botanical Society of America, the International Mycological Congress I (1971) & II (1977), and the National Academy of Sciences. The content includes correspondence, minutes, reports, election balloting, programs, and membership lists. Dr. Raper was associated with the American Type Culture collection as (1) a representative of the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL); (2) as a member of the National Research Council's ATCC Committee (1948-1954); and (3) as chairman of the Executive Committee of the ATCC Board of Trustees itself (1954-1962). There are 15 files of correspondence, minutes, and reports pertaining to Dr. Raper's association with the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS).

Dr. Raper was Chairman of the Executive Committee for the International Botanical Congress XI (1969), held at the University of Washington in Seattle. There are 3 boxes containing correspondence, circular bulletins, committee histories, minutes, financial records, reports, grants, and memorabilia. The records relate to solicitation of sponsors, financial planning, advertising, publicity, social events, medals, stamps, and publications, as well as the overall organization and hosting of the event. Photography of IBC social events is located in Series 13: Photographic Material.

Series 5    Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL), 1940-1953; 1979-80
                  0.7 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

The series contains 25 files of documents, correspondence, and research notes relating to Dr. Raper's work as a microbiologist with the Fermentation Division of the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois. Most material relates to NRRL penicillin research during and after World War II, including data on culture NRRL 824 (the Fleming strain) and culture NRRL 1951, of critical importance to large-scale penicillin production. Correspondence files are arranged chronologically, except for those with Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey, Ronald Heatley, and Charles Hesseltine. Four files, "Penicillin Chronology," relate to the history and commemoration of the NRRL role in the war effort at the time of the transfer (and public announcement) of unpublished NRRL files to the U.S. National Archives in 1980. The 4 files of the present collection contain correspondence, notes, pamphlets, and clippings. Photographs relating to NRRL staff, facilities, and history are located in Series 13: Photographic Material.

Series 6    University of Wisconsin, 1953-1986
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 25 files relating to administrative and academic responsibilities in the UW Departments of Bacteriology and Botany and with various faculty committees, including the Agricultural College. Notable among these are Dr. Raper's administration of the program in bacteriology, the William Trelease Professorship (awarded to him in 1964), and his nomination for the Nobel Prize. Group photographs of Department of Bacteriology faculty and students are located in Series 13: Photographic Material.

Series 7    Course Curricula, 1953-1977
                  1.0 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

Material in this series relates to bacteriology and botany courses taught by Dr. Raper at the University of Wisconsin (Dept. of Bacteriology), consisting of syllabi, outlines, lab procedures, handouts, annotated reprints, examinations, and student grade notebooks. Several files contain such material from courses taught at the University of Illinois and the University of North Carolina. Three files consist of similar records of courses taught by his colleagues Albert E. Dimond and Lindsay S. Olive.

Series 8    Class Notes, 1929-1935
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 11 files of Dr. Raper's class notes of anatomy, botany, mycology, and physiology courses taken by him at George Washington University, Harvard University, and the USDA. One file of notes pertains to a cryptogamic botany course taught by William H. Weston. Several files contain botanical drawings relating to class notes.

Series 9    Lectures and Talks, 1956-1985
                  0.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 15 files consisting of notes and outlines of talks given by Dr. Raper as a guest lecturer at colleges, universities, and scientific societies. Five files are notes from annual talks presented to the Dining Club at the University of Wisconsin. One file relates to abstracts and notes on several talks regarding Dictyostelium discoideum.

Series 10    Research Grants, 1955-1979
                    0.8 lin. ft. Arranged by grant number.

This material relates to grants awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research on the Dictyosteliaceae. The records consist of grant proposals, extensions, and reports. See Series 4: Affiliations for information on NSF grants relating to International Botanical Congress XI.

Series 11    Research Papers, 1928-1984
                    5.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

The research papers consist of three types of material based on size (and format): 1) research files; 2) index card files; 3) oversize graphs, charts, and diagrams. There are approximately 3 boxes of research files that contain various data on microfungi and cellular slime molds. These consist of genus/species isolations and determinations, experiment records and notebooks, dichotomous keys, notes on photomicrographs, laboratory procedures and media, and related records.

Most material relates to Dr. Raper's research on Dictyosteliaceae at the University of Wisconsin and on Penicillium at NRRL. There are 5 boxes of index cards that consist of indices for The Genus Aspergillus (1965) and The Dictyostelids (1984), as well as author and subject indices. One box contains oversize graphs on antibiotic production and diagrams of D. discoideum. The photographic record of Dr. Raper's research is integral to these records and is contained in Series 13: Photographic Material.

Series 12    Personal Papers, 1935-1986
                    0.7 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

Dr. Raper's personal papers consist of personal and family correspondence, employment and retirement records, clippings, obituary notices, certificates, and awards.

There are official documents relating to his employment by the USDA and the University of Wisconsin, Charles Thom memorabilia, and typescripts of an autobiographical essay and curriculum vita written near the end of his life.

Series 13    Photographic Material, 1925-1984
                    27.8 lin. ft. Arranged by media, size, then alphabetically by subject.

Photographs: There are 22 boxes of photographs containing prints arranged by size: 16 x 18 (Box #23); 11 x 14 (Box #24); 8.5 x 11 (Boxes #25-27); 5 x 7 (#28-30); 3 x 5 (#31-44). Most relate to the growth and life cycles of Aspergillus, Penicillium, Dictyosteliaceae, and related organisms. This record documents microscopic structures such as spores, macrocysts, amoebae, and sorocarps of cellular slime molds (and similar structures of the microfungi) in various isolations and experiments using optical and electron microscopy. There are photos of fungal cultures in petri dishes, as well as glossy and matte photos of charts, diagrams, graphs, and text. Photos are arranged alphabetically by genus (and/or subject) where applicable.

One sequence of folders contains prints used for figures in published articles by Dr. Raper and his collaborators. There is also a complete series of mounted photos of figures used in The Dictyostelids (see Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts). The research of the Northern Regional Research Laboratory is documented with photos of building and grounds, fermentation and laboratory equipment, microbiological subjects, and group and individual portraits, including the NRRL "Penicillin Team." Other portraits pertain to events of IBC XI, University of Wisconsin faculty and staff, and Charles Thom and associates.

Negatives: There are 21 boxes of photographic negatives arranged by size: 8.5 x 11 (Box #27); 5 x 7 (Box #54); 3 x 5 (Boxes #45-53; 55). There are 8 boxes of glass negatives (#56-63) and one of Kodachrome slides (#64). In most cases negatives relate to corresponding positive prints. Negatives are arranged alphabetically by genus (and/or subject) following the sequential ordering of photographs in Series 13 wherever possible. There is one sequence of 206 negatives (Box #65) of specimen material. See Series 14: Specimen Material.

Other Media: There are 31 boxes of lantern slides, most of which duplicate the photographic record described above. There are 31 spools of 16mm film of the germination and development of cellular slime molds in culture, and 2 spools of 35mm film, subjects unidentified. There is one videocassette of filming done in Peoria, Illinois for a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC TV) documentary on penicillin that includes footage of an interview with Dr. Raper. Finally, there are 58 plates (5 boxes) of Aspergillus, Dictyostelium, et al used as figures in published articles.

Series 14    Specimen Material, 1971
                    0.2 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This material consists of 18 match-box size boxes (4cm x 6.5cm) containing plastic blocks or 'spurs' in which Dictyostelium spores, macrocysts, and other microscopic structures have been embedded using laboratory methods. Accompanying this material are (a) a laboratory record of the media and processes used to create the blocks (see Series 11: Research Papers, Box #17), and (b) a series of 206 negatives (see Series 13: Photographic Material, Boxes #65 & #66) that is a photographic record of the embedded specimen material.


The Kenneth Raper collection was transferred from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to The New York Botanical Garden by Judy Peterson, Administrator, Department of Bacteriology, May 25, 1990.


The New York Botanical Garden

PP       Charles Thom Papers

RG5     Alma Whiffen Barksdale Records

RG5     Bernard Ogilvie Dodge Records

RG5     William Jacob Robbins Records

American Institute of the History of Botany, State Historical Society of Wisconsin,

Archives Division, Madison, WI

Kenneth Raper interview

Processed March 2000 by David Rose under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and 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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