1022-7954/05/4105- © 2005 Pleiades Publishing, Inc.
Russian Journal of Genetics, Vol. 41, No. 5, 2005, pp. 580–581. Translated from Genetika, Vol. 41, No. 5, 2005, pp. 716–717.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2005 by the Editorial Board.
Nina Borisovna Varshaver, an eminent geneticist,
passed away on January 20, 2005.
Varshaver lived a long, fruitful life ﬁlled with
unﬂagging work and love for science and music. Var-
shaver graduated from the Department of Genetics of
Moscow State University in 1937. She was among the
best of the students of A.S. Serebrovsky, the founder of
the Department of Genetics, that became afterwards
world-renowned scientists. When still a student, Var-
shaver was offered the job of an interpreter at the Inter-
national Exhibition in Paris, owing to her outstanding
talents and perfect command of languages, and did the
job excellently. In 1937, Varshaver entered the post-
graduate course in genetics; in 1940, she brilliantly
defended her candidate’s dissertation, “Material on the
Genetics of Sex in Drosophila.” After the notorious ses-
sion of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural
Sciences (VASKhNIL) in 1948, research in genetics
became impossible in the Soviet Union. Like many
other researchers, Varshaver joined the Institute of Sci-
entiﬁc Information. Only in 1963 did she manage to
resume research, at the Institute of Viral Preparations.
Beginning from September 1964, Varshaver worked in
the Laboratory of the Genetics of Somatic Cells of the
Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Energy (the laboratory
was headed by Prof. N.I. Shapiro). She worked in this
laboratory (afﬁliated with the Institute of Molecular
Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences from
1978) for the rest of her life. For many years, Varshaver
was Shapiro’s deputy and successfully combined
extensive research and organizational activities.
All those years, Varshaver carried out intense stud-
ies on the most important problems of the genetics of
somatic cells. She was one of the ﬁrst members of the
All-Russia (formerly All-Union) Society of Geneticists
and Breeders. The patterns of spontaneous and induced
mutagenesis constituted the main subject of her studies.
A series of studies on the induction of gene mutations
in mammalian cells by oncogenic DNA viruses is of
special interest. On the basis of their results, the State
Committee for Inventions and Discoveries of the Soviet
Union certiﬁed (in 1986) a discovery made by Var-
shaver, Shapiro, and M.I. Marshak. Further develop-
ment of research in this ﬁeld led to the discovery of
some characteristic features of viral mutagenesis and a
complete parallelism between the mutagenic and trans-
forming effects of viruses. The results of these studies
demonstrated that the mutational and viral theories of
cancer were not mutually exclusive: it was found that
mutations of cell genes induced by viruses were
involved in the multistage viral carcinogenesis. Var-
shaver participated in the All-Union program “Oncoge-
netics” for many years. She successfully studied the
mutagenic and transforming effects of RNA viruses,
which had not been studied at all before that time. This
made it possible to assess the genetic hazard of vaccine
strains of the viruses. Varshaver continued studies in
this ﬁeld by analyzing malignancy induced by activated
Varshaver was an erudite biologist; her exemplary
reports at all-Union and international conferences and
symposia always attracted the audience’s attention. She
published more than 100 expertly performed studies in
Soviet (Russian) and foreign scientiﬁc periodicals.
Together with other geneticists and breeders who never
betrayed their science in the period of Lysenkoism, Var-
shaver was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of
Labor in 1990.
Varshaver carried out intense research and used her
experience and knowledge to help her colleagues until
the very last day of her life. Every researcher in the lab-
oratory felt Varshaver’s support, attention, and interest
in their studies. Varshaver was a kindhearted and con-
siderate person. We always knew that we could ask her
any question and would receive an expert answer.
Nina Borisovna Varshaver
(January 27, 1914–January 20, 2005)