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Alma Whiffen Barksdale (1916-1981)

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Records of the Laboratory (RG5)
2.0 linear feet (4 boxes)


Alma Whiffen Barksdale (1916-1981) was born in Hammonton, New Jersey on October 25, 1916. She received her A.B. (1937) at Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee, and her M.S. in botany (1939) and Ph.D. in botany and mycology (1941) at the University of North Carolina, where she was a Carnegie Fellow (1941-42). Dr. Barksdale conducted postdoctoral research under Dr. John N. Couch (1943) and became a National Research Council Fellow with Dr. William H. Weston at Harvard University (1942-43).

Dr. Barksdale's work falls into three periods. The first was her graduate and postdoctoral studies on the cytology, nutrition, and taxonomy of aquatic fungi (phyla Oomycota and Chytridiomycota). Her contributions included: (1) the development of methods for the isolation, purification, and culture of nine genera of lower aquatic fungi; (2) the determination of their nutritional requirements; and (3) the discovery of a new type of sexual life cycle in the Blastocladiales, an order composed of aquatic parasites.

In the second period of her work, she was employed as a professional mycologist in the Department of Antibiotic Research of the Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan (1943-52). She discovered cycloheximide, an antifungal agent used to control fungal spot diseases in cherries and on turfs of golf greens. She played a major role in the development of actidione, the trade name for cycloheximide, an antibiotic derived from Streptomyces griseus, used in isolating pathogenic fungi. In 1951 Dr. Barksdale was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow at Stanford University with C. B. Van Niel. In 1952 she married Lane Barksdale and spent a year in Paris working on research projects.

In 1952 Dr. Barksdale became a research associate at The New York Botanical Garden, where she investigated sexual reproduction in the genus Achlya, comprised of filamentous aquatic fungi. Thus commenced the third period of her career. Her studies confirmed and further developed the work of Dr. John Raper on sexual hormones in Achlya. She discovered that the hormone that induces the formation of antheridia in Achlya is a steroid secreted by female strains of Achlya bisexualis and A. ambisexualis. She confirmed the structure of this hormone, antheridiol, by laboratory synthesis.

Dr. Barksdale's career at the Garden spanned two decades; her final position was Senior Botanist (1972-75), after which she retired for reasons of health. She published over 30 papers on Achlya and aquatic fungi. She served on the editorial board of Mycologia (1949-59), as its book review editor (1969), and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Mycological Society of America (1971-73). After a long illness, Dr. Barksdale died on July 5, 1981.


The Alma Whiffen Barksdale collection consists of correspondence, research papers, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, grant records, reprints, and photographic material covering her graduate studies and career at The New York Botanical Garden from 1952 to 1975. Some material relates to her positions as book review editor of Mycologia and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Mycological Society of America.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Research Papers
Series 3: Manuscripts and Lecture Notes
Series 4: Grant Records
Series 5: New York Botanical Garden Internal Memoranda
Series 6: Publications
Series 7: Photographic Material

Series 1    Correspondence, 1952-1975
                  0.7 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 57 files pertaining to Dr. Barksdale's research on sexual reproduction in Achlya, the chemical composition of Achlya hormones, and the laboratory synthesis of antheridiol. Correspondents include John Couch, Linda Lasure, Trevor McMorris, John Raper, Kenneth Raper, William Robbins, and Gary Samuels.

Series 2    Research Papers
                  1.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

This series consists of 16 files of research notes on reproduction in Achlya and synthesis of antheridiol. There are also 8 laboratory record books with data on schedules, chromatography, culture strains, and bibliographic note cards.

Series 3    Manuscripts and Lecture Notes
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 22 files consisting of manuscripts and lecture notes for seminars and conferences. Two of the manuscripts include Dr. Barksdale's M.A. and Ph.D. theses.

Series 4    Grant Records, 1959 - 1973
                  0.3 lin. ft. Arranged by grant number.

There are 16 files containing grant applications, proposals for research, renewals, accounting, fiscal reports, progress reports, summaries, and outcomes relating to grants from the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the American Philosophical Society.

Series 5    New York Botanical Garden Internal Memoranda
                  0.1 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 4 files of The New York Botanical Garden annual reports, a long-range planning proposal, and various Garden memos and internal communications.

Series 6    Publications
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

This series consists of 4 files of reprints of Dr. Barksdale's publications and newsletters and directories of the Botanical Society of America.

Series 7    Photographic Material
                  0.6 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically, then by project.

This series consists of 7 boxes of positive and negative plates, 1 file book of negative plates, and miscellaneous envelopes of positives. All are contained in Box 4.


The New York Botanical Garden

PP Kenneth B. Raper Papers

RG5 William Jacob Robbins Records

Processed December 1998 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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