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Julius Axelrod Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS C 494

Abstract

The collection consists primarily of materials related to Axelrod's scientific career. The bulk of these materials consists of awards, laboratory notebooks, reprints, and photographs. The collection is especially stong in documenting Axelrod's receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1970. There is little correspondence.

Dates

  • 1910-2004 (bulk 1946-1999)

Extent

12.1 Linear Feet (28 boxes + map drawer)

Creator

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Language of Materials

English

Restrictions

Portions of the collection are restricted. Contact the Reference Staff for information regarding access.

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

Privacy Information

Archives and manuscript collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in any collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the National Library of Medicine assumes no responsibility.

Biographical Note

Julius (Julie) Axelrod (1912-2004) was born May 20, 1912, on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York City, the son of Polish immigrants Isadore and Molly Axelrod. Julius' father supported the family as a basketmaker. Axelrod attended Seward Park High School, where he quickly developed an interest in history, literature, and science, and set his sights on medical school. In 1929, Axelrod enrolled in New York City University (NYU). After one year, he transferred to the tuition-free City College of New York (CCNY), which Axelrod later described as a "proletarian Harvard." Axelrod graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1933. He applied to several medical schools, but was not admitted. Reflecting on these rejections, he told a newspaper reporter in 1970 that "It was hard in those days for Jews to get into medical school. I wasn't that good a student, but if my name was Bigelow I probably would have gotten in."

Axelrod also found it difficult to find work in his field, especially in the middle of the Depression. After a brief stint as a laboratory technician at the Harriman Research Laboratory at NYU Medical School, Axelrod found a position in 1935 testing vitamin supplements added to food, particularly milk, for the New York City Department of Health's Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene. Axelrod remained in this position until 1946. During this period, he lost his left eye in a laboratory accident. In 1938, Axelrod married Sally Taub, an elementary school teacher. Over the next decade, the couple had two sons, Paul and Alfred. While working for the Department of Health, Axelrod took night classes at NYU and earned his Master of Science degree in chemistry in 1941 with a thesis on the chemical breakdown of enzymes in cancerous tumor tissues.

In 1946, Axelrod began conducting research on the chemistry of analgesic (pain-relieving) medications with Bernard "Steve" Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island. He continued to work with Brodie, whom he considered to be his mentor, for the next eight years. Their research together laid the foundation for Axelrod's lifelong enthusiasm for pharmacological science. In 1949, Axelrod accepted a position as a research chemist at the National Heart Institute (NHI), a part of the rapidly expanding National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. From 1949 to 1955, he pursued many new projects at the NHI that built upon his previous work.

Although Axelrod clearly possessed the requisite skill and scientific expertise to carry out his own research, he knew that without a Ph.D. his opportunities for career advancement were limited. In 1954, Axelrod took a leave of absence from the NIH to attend The George Washington University, where his advisor, George Mandel, permitted him to submit some of his recent NIH laboratory work as the basis for his doctoral dissertation. Now in his early 40's, Axelrod graduated from GWU in 1955 with a Ph.D. in pharmacology after completing his thesis, "The Fate of Phenylisopropylamines."

In 1954, Axelrod was invited to establish a Section on Pharmacology in Edward Evarts's Laboratory of Clinic Science at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In 1957, he began his most famous research project, which focused on the activity of neurotransmitter hormones. Axelrod's work enabled researchers during the 1970s to develop a new class of antidepressant medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some commonly known SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa. Over the next thirty years until his retirement in 1984, he continued to work on a wide array of research projects in pharmacological science.

In 1970, Axelrod, along with Sir Bernard Katz of University College London and Ulf von Euler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for "discoveries concerning the humoral transmitters in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation." Axelrod remained an active researcher, distinguished lecturer, and public scientist throughout the 1970s, garnering numerous honorary degrees and professional awards. In 1984, at the age of 72, he formally retired from the NIMH. In 1996, he was named Scientist Emeritus of the National Institutes of Health.

Brief Chronology
  • 1912 May 30 Born, New York City; son of Isadore Axelrod, a basketmaker, and Molly Leichtling Axelrod
  • 1929 Enrolls at New York University
  • 1930 Transfers to City College of New York; studies history, philosophy, literature and biology
  • 1933 Receives Bachelor of Science degree in biology, CCNY
  • 1933-1935 Laboratory assistant in Harriman Laboratory, NYU Medical School
  • 1935-1946 Chemist, Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene, NYC Dept. of Health
  • 1938 Marries Sally Taub; 2 children
  • 1941 Receives Master of Science degree in chemistry, NYU, after taking post-graduate night courses
  • 1946-1949 Research associate with Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital, Welfare Island, NY
  • 1949-1955 Continues work with Brodie at National Institutes of Health
  • 1949-1950 Associate chemist, Section on Clinical Pharmacology, NIH
  • 1950-1953 Chemist, NIH
  • 1953-1955 Senior chemist, NIH
  • 1955 Completes doctoral thesis in pharmacology, George Washington University, under George Mandel, The Fate of Phenylisopropylamines"
  • 1954-1984 Chief, Section on Pharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical Science, NIH
  • 1958-1961 Discovers reuptake action in neurotransmitter norepinephrine
  • 1960-1965 Studies pineal gland; develops "melatonin hypothesis"
  • 1967 Receives Gairdner Foundation International Award
  • 1970 Shares Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine with Sir Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler
  • 1970 Member, Psychopharmacology Study Section, NIH
  • 1984 Retires from NIH; continues as Guest Researcher at NIMH, Laboratory of Cell Biology
  • 1987 Julius Axelrod Distinguished Lecturer in Neuroscience established at CCNY by Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation
  • 1992 Sep. 18 One Day Scientific Symposium and 80th Birthday Celebration in Honor of Julie Axelrod
  • 1996 Named Scientist Emeritus of NIH

Brief Chronology

1912 May 30
Born, New York City; son of Isadore Axelrod, a basketmaker, and Molly Leichtling Axelrod
1929
Enrolls at New York University
1930
Transfers to City College of New York; studies history, philosophy, literature and biology
1933
Receives Bachelor of Science degree in biology, CCNY
1933-1935
Laboratory assistant in Harriman Laboratory, NYU Medical School
1935-1946
Chemist, Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene, NYC Dept. of Health
1938
Marries Sally Taub; 2 children
1941
Receives Master of Science degree in chemistry, NYU, after taking post-graduate night courses
1946-1949
Research associate with Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital, Welfare Island, NY
1949-1955
Continues work with Brodie at National Institutes of Health
1949-1950
Associate chemist, Section on Clinical Pharmacology, NIH
1950-1953
Chemist, NIH
1953-1955
Senior chemist, NIH
1955
Completes doctoral thesis in pharmacology, George Washington University, under George Mandel, The Fate of Phenylisopropylamines"
1954-1984
Chief, Section on Pharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical Science, NIH
1958-1961
Discovers reuptake action in neurotransmitter norepinephrine
1960-1965
Studies pineal gland; develops "melatonin hypothesis"
1967
Receives Gairdner Foundation International Award
1970
Shares Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine with Sir Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler
1970
Member, Psychopharmacology Study Section, NIH
1984
Retires from NIH; continues as Guest Researcher at NIMH, Laboratory of Cell Biology
1987
Julius Axelrod Distinguished Lecturer in Neuroscience established at CCNY by Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation
1992 Sep. 18
One Day Scientific Symposium and 80th Birthday Celebration in Honor of Julie Axelrod
1996
Named Scientist Emeritus of NIH

Selected Awards

  1. Akademie der Wissenschaft der DDR, foreign member
  2. Claude Bernard Medal/Professorship, University of Montreal
  3. Bristol-Myers Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience Research
  4. Stanley R. Dean Research Award, American College of Psychiatrists and the Foundation forBehavioral Sciences
  5. Distinguished Achievement Award, George Washington University
  6. Distinguished Research Award, Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease
  7. Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  8. Distinguished Service Award, Modern Medicine Magazine
  9. Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine,Yeshiva University
  10. Gairdner Foundation Award
  11. Townsend Harris Medal for Distinguished Achievement, CCNY
  12. International Physiological Union Travel Award
  13. A. Ross McIntyre Award, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  14. David Mahoney Institute for the Decade of the Brain Award
  15. National Science Foundation Travel Award
  16. Silver Medallion Award, College of Medicine of the Medical University of South Carolina
  17. Torald Sollmann Award, American Society for Pharmacology and ExperimentalTherapeutics
  18. Superior Service Award, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  19. Rudolph Virchow Medal, Rudolf Virchow Medical Society [NYC]

Editorial Board Service

  1. Circulation Research
  2. Communications in Behavioral Biology
  3. Currents in Modern Biology
  4. International Journal of Psychobiology
  5. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
  6. Journal of Neurobiology
  7. Journal of Neurochemistry
  8. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
  9. Life Sciences
  10. Pharmacological Research Communications
  11. Rassegna di Neurologia Vegetativa

Honorary Degrees

  1. College of the City of New York
  2. George Washington University
  3. Hahnemann University (Philadelphia, PA)
  4. McGill University
  5. Medical College of Pennsylvania
  6. Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
  7. New York University
  8. University of Chicago
  9. University of Panama
  10. University of Pennsylvania
  11. Ripon College
  12. Tel Aviv University
  13. Universite de Paris-Sud

Memberships

  1. American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellow
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science, fellow
  3. American Chemical Society
  4. American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, fellow
  5. American Philosophical Society
  6. American Psychophysiol Association, honorary member
  7. American Society of Biological Chemists
  8. American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental TherapeuticsCatecholamine Club
  9. John M. Chermerda Lecture in Science, Pennsylvania State University College of Science
  10. German Pharmacological Society, corresponding member
  11. Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences
  12. International Brain Research Organization
  13. Japanese Pharmacological Society
  14. National Academy of Sciences
  15. Royal Society, foreign member
  16. Sigma Xi
  17. Worldwide Hungarian Medical Academy, honorary member

Collection Summary

The Julius Axelrod Papers consist of 12.1 linear feet of notebooks, articles, photographs, and awards, plus two oversize boxes and two oversize folders of degrees, awards, and posters.

The collection consists primarily of materials related to Axelrod's scientific career, although there are several biographical sketches. As evidence of Axelrod's many hours in the laboratory, the collection features a run of laboratory notes and notebooks from the late 1940s through the 1960s. Further, the collection boasts a large number of scientific articles and other publications spanning his career. The collection also contains numerous photographs of Axelrod at various conferences and lectures. There are a great number of items related to Axelrod's winning of awards, honorary degrees, memberships, and lectureships. The collection is especially strong in documenting Axelrod's receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1970, including congratulatory correspondence, newspaper clippings, and print ephemera.

The collection contains very little correspondence, either professional or personal. The laboratory notes and notebooks from the 1950s and 1960s comprise a significant part of Axelrod's papers, as do his articles and other publications. However, the majority of the collection is related in one way or another to his notoriety after receiving the Nobel.

Abstract

The collection consists primarily of materials related to Axelrod's scientific career. The bulk of these materials consists of awards, laboratory notebooks, reprints, and photographs. The collection is especially stong in documenting Axelrod's receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1970. There is little correspondence.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Provenance

Gift of Julius Axelrod, 1998; gift of Axelrod family, 2005. Acc. 2005-014 and Acc. 2005-026

Alternate Forms Available

Portions of the Collection have been digitized and are available at: https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov.

General

Processed by
Aaron D. Purcell, David H. Serlin, Ph.D.; Michele M. Tourney
Processing Completed
2000
Encoded by
John P. Rees and Michele M. Tourney
Additional Processing
2005

Processing Information

Newspaper clippings have been photocopied onto acid-free paper and discarded. A scrapbook containing photographs of Ripon College's commencement in 1984 has been disbound; the pages were photocopied to preserve context. Photographs have been sleeved in Mylar.

Several oversized documents, including awards, diplomas, and posters were removed for preservation purposes. They are stored in two oversized boxes, 20 and 21, as well as two oversized folders, designated as Mapcase 7 Folders 1 and 2. These materials have also been sleeved in Mylar. Separation sheets found in relevant folders are used to remind researchers of the existence of oversize materials.

Title
Finding Aid to the Julius Axelrod Papers, 1910-2004 (bulk 1946-1999)
Status
Unverified Partial Draft
Author
Aaron D. Purcell; David H. Serlin, Ph.D.; Michele M. Tourney
Date
2000; 2005
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Edition statement
2.0

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

Contact:
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