Howard Bancroft Andervont, Editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, retired in March 1968. Son of Ernest Bancroft Andervont and Catherine Magdalena (Kuehn) Andervont, he was born in Canton, Ohio, on March 8, 1898. He had a fortunate, barefooted, stubtoed boyhood. He attended public schools and then Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where he helped support himself by working in steel mills. His biology instructor, Dr. Joseph Scott, awakened his interest in biological science. Following his graduation with a degree of Bachelor of Science in 1923, Scott recommended him to Dr. Charles Simon, of the School of Hygiene at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He was Simon's assistant in research and teaching on filterable viruses during three years of graduate work.
In 1926 he received from The Johns Hopkins University the degree of Doctor of Science; his thesis was on the relationship between cowpox virus and vaccinia virus. He remained at Johns Hopkins for a year on a Carnegie Foundation Fellowship and then accepted an instructorship with Dr. Milton J. Rosenau, Professor of Preventative Medicine at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts. One of the members of Rosenau's department was Dr. J.W. Schereschewsky, assigned from the U.S. Public Health Service, who was instrumental in persuading the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service that cancer was a public health problem. Upon Rosenau's retirement in 1930, Andervont became the first professional staff member of Schereschewsky's Office of Cancer Investigations. The history of this group and an appreciation of Schereschewsky were published by Andervont in 1937.
Andervont remained with the Public Health Service for the rest of his professional career. The Office of Cancer Investigations at Harvard became part of the National Cancer Institute, created in 1937, and was moved to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda in 1939. Andervont led biological research at the National Cancer Institute until 1961, when he relinquished his post as Chief of the Laboratory of biology and became Editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Howard B. Andervont married Letha Marie Krabill on September 14, 1926. They have three children: Mrs. Barbara (Robert E.) Bowman, born in 1928; Mrs. Carolyn (James M.) Edie, born in 1930; and John D. Andervont, born in 1935.
Virus research was one of Andervont's earliest interests. He showed that herpesvirus of man could be transmitted to mice by intercerebral inoculation, and thereby provided the means of studying this human virus in an animal. It was but a short step to an interest in viruses as related to cancer and the development of a method of concentrating by adsorption on charcoal the Rous sarcoma virus that infects fowl. He made it possible in this way to obtain consistent production of viral tumors in fowl, when previously negative and poorly reproducible results were common. Fully a quarter of a century before the current strong interest in viruses as a cause of human cancer and at a time when most scientists regarded the existence of such a relationship with great skepticism, he developed his abiding belief in the importance of studying the viral etiology of cancer.
Andervont's early work on immunology of transplanted tumors led him to the realization of the importance of genetic factors, and the usefulness of genetically homozygous strains of mice in cancer research. Personally maintained and developed colonies of inbred strains became the material for all his subsequent research.
Following the discovery by Bittner of the milk-transmitted mammary tumor agent in mice, Andervont began a comprehensive, long-term study of this factor. He was first to convert a strain of mice which develop tumors infrequently to a permanent strain with a high frequency of tumor development by foster-nursing the mice with milk containing the agent. He was first to demonstrate the transmission of the mammary tumor agent through the seminal fluid of male mice, to show that the agent was prevalent in low concentration in wild mice, and to demonstrate passive immunity to the agent in mice.
Another line of Andervont's investigations had its origin in the early studies by the Harvard group of the induction of cancer in animals by chemical agents, particularly polycyclic hydrocarbons. Andervont pioneered the development of biological methods of studying experimental induction of cancer with chemicals. He continued his interest in the mechanism of chemical carcinogenesis and was among the first to make a systematic investigation of tumors induced in different inbred mouse strains by chemical carcinogens, the inheritance of cancer susceptibility to various agents, and the possible correlation of the incidence of spontaneous and induced tumors.
Andervont's personal research is recorded in his 165 publications. They have been well recognized and have had deep influence on cancer research throughout the world. They demonstrate his lucid, thorough approach to a problem, clear presentation of the results, and conservative interpretations.
For 20 years Andervont was also administratively responsible for, and guided the research of, the largest group of investigators in the National Cancer Institute, whose work encompassed tissue culture, electron microscopy, genetics, radiation biology, cell physiology, cell biology, tumor virology, and etiology of spontaneous leukemia. Under his direction, research of extremely high caliber was accomplished, and discoveries of outstanding importance were made: discovery of the Stewart-Eddy polyoma virus which produces multiple tumors in a number of animal species, discovery of the Moloney mouse leukemia virus, development of quantitative techniques for the study of tumor viruses, the role of hormones in experimental induction of cancer, quantitative methods in the testing of cancer-producing chemicals, relationship of lung tumors of mice to factors associated with the chromatin of the sex cells, first cloning of a mammalian cell in tissue culture, development of more than a dozen tissue culture strains derived from single cells, development of a synthetic medium for tissue culture, and first conversion of normal to cancerous cells in the test tube.
Recognition of his commanding role in biological research on cancer during his long career has come from his colleagues and from the United States Government. He has been an active member of many scientific societies and of many committees of the American Cancer Society. He was president of the American Association for Cancer Research in 1955. For 15 years he has been a trustee of The Jackson Laboratory at Bar Harbor, Maine. In 1942, an honorary degree of Doctor of Science was conferred upon him by Mt. Union College, his alma mater. In 1961, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, "for outstanding contributions to research, writing, and counseling in cancer biology and leadership in establishing and guiding the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Biology." In 1962, he was the recipient of the National Civil Service League Award.
Andy, as he is known to his many friends, is a modest man, and fulsome praise would embarrass him. He is an individualist, with his own convictions which he practices but does not impose on others. His belief in the freedom of science and in the paramount importance of personal ideas in the conduct of research has been the touchstone of his own endeavors and of the endeavors for which he has had administrative responsibility. All of his own reports are based on his own work; the animals he used were the animals he personally raised, examined, and evaluated. This personal involvement he never delegated to assistants, and the intimate knowledge of his media is evident in his publications. By the same token, the work of his associates was theirs alone. It would have been unthinkable for him to add his name to publications reporting work in which he did not participate. He was free with his counsel when requested; he gave generously of his wisdom, when appropriate; he assumed responsibilities, when he considered them worthy.
Andy's relationships with his administrative heads reflected his ways in the laboratory. He was always dependable, straightforward, and, again, modest. His presidential address to the American Association for Cancer Research, published in 1956, demonstrates these qualities in his own words.
The home of Andy and Letha was always open to colleagues from all over the world, and to their many friends from many walks of life. The weekly poker parties became traditional from the Boston days, and the older group will always cherish the New Year's Eve gatherings.
Howard Bancroft Andervont is an epitome of a scientist. Andy, may your years be many, and may your tribe increase!
1Reprinted from J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 40: XIII-XXV, 1968.