1062-3604/04/3506- © 2004
Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, Vol. 35, No. 6, 2004, pp. 333–336. Translated from Ontogenez, Vol. 35, No. 6, 2004, pp. 411–414.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2004 by Strunnikov.
In addition to classical works in the area of biology,
Boris L. Astaurov put himself on record in practical and
scientiﬁc sericulture. The results of his surprisingly
accurate, thorough studies on silkworm not only pre-
served their signiﬁcance, but have recently acquired
even greater importance than was thought at the years
when they were obtained.
The jubilee we celebrate now allows us to remember
with a deep gratitude about this great contribution of
Astaurov to science and sericulture and about the main
milestones in his life.
Boris L. Astaurov was born in family of physicians,
typical representatives of the advanced intellectual
word of that time. In 1927 he graduated from the Mos-
cow University where he was specialized in zoology.
The outstanding biologists of that time were his profes-
sors: N.K. Kol’tsov, A.N. Severtsov, M.A. Menzbir,
S.S. Chetverikov, D.P. Filatov, A.S. Serebrovskii,
M.M. Zavadovskii, and many others. They not only
allowed Astaurov to obtain good general biological
education, but also implanted in him the love to exper-
imental work, disclosure of mysteries of the nature.
His ﬁrst work published when Astaurov was only
23 years old is characterized by experimental excel-
lence, mature scientiﬁc thinking, and rich erudition. He
studied an unstable mutation in
caused the appearance of an additional pair of wings.
This work has not lost its scientiﬁc signiﬁcance and was
republished in 1974. In 1930, on proposal of
N.K. Kol’tsov, Astaurov moved to work in Tashkent at
the Middle-Asian Research Institute of Sericulture. He
moved to a far, at that time, periphery of our country
with interesting, one can say, fantastic ideas. He was
interested in the problems of parthenogenesis and still
poorly known effects of irradiation on living beings. He
chose the silkworm as an object of these studies. And
since that time, during 43 years, Astaurov abode to this
favorite object. In his studies on the silkworm, he
obtained the results essential, as will be shown below,
for the solution of most important general biological
In Middle Asia, Astaurov encountered a small, but
highly qualiﬁed group of scientists, full of enthusiasm
and aspiring to develop practical sericulture and its sci-
entiﬁc foundations. We remember quite well that at that
time young professors E.F. Poyarkov, A.I. Fedorov, and
E.V. Romanov (director of the institute) worked there.
Professor M.I. Slonim began to work in the area of silk-
worm genetics and selection. He was a bright represen-
tative of the Tashkent intelligentsia and changed his
profession of physician to that of geneticist.
Nikolai K. Belyaev worked with him, who carried out
several ﬁrst rate studies already in his youth.
N.K. Belyaev and M.I. Slonim together with Astau-
rov initiated genetic and selection studies on the silk-
worm, as well as work on practical sericulture.
There was no any serious work on silkworm selec-
tion at the institute until 1930. The Middle-Asian seri-
culture was based on the pure, little stable and little pro-
ductive local breed, so-called Baghdad breed.
In 1930, Astaurov headed the group of hybridization
in the Department of Genetics and Selection and began
regular studies of the silkworm breeds and their
hybrids. He convincingly demonstrated the signiﬁcant
advantages of hybrids, as compared to pure breeds. The
most promising breeds were selected for hybridization,
not only spring breeds, but also summer and summer-
autumn breeds. The latter included bivoltine breeds
crossed with the monovoltine ones. Based on the results
obtained by Astaurov, in the ﬁrst half of the 1930s, the
Soviet sericulture was practically fully switched to the
production of highly productive industrial hybrids.
Summer and autumn feeds were gradually introduced
on the basis of stable, just mentioned monovoltine
hybrids. This great success in the area of scientiﬁc and
practical sericulture is due to Astaurov.
Assimilation of selection-genetic achievements in
Japan is also a merit of Astaurov. The successes of Jap-
anese selectioners were quite evident. But nothing was
known about their methods, since their works were
published only in Japanese. In 1930 a rather extensive
literature was brought from Japan. Astaurov carefully
studied this literature, translated it and published a very
Plemennoe shelkovodstvo v Yaponii i
zadachi shelkovodstva v SSSR
(Stock Sericulture in
Japan and Problems of Sericulture in the USSR).
The bulk of theoretical and experimental data
obtained on the silkworm allowed the geneticists-seri-
culturists to outline at the I Middle-Asian Conference
on practical Sericulture and then realize a radical
reform in the area of genetics, selection, hybridization,
and practical sericulture in all sericultural institutions
Contribution of B.L. Astaurov to Scientific
and Practical Sericulture
V. A. Strunnikov
Kol’tsov Institute of Developmental Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Vavilova 26, Moscow, 199991 Russia
TO THE CENTENARY
OF BORIS L. ASTAUROV