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COLLECTION Identifier: far00017

Vernon Ahmadjian papers

Scope and Content

The Ahmadjian papers contain correspondence, photographs, microscopic images, drawings, specimens, laboratory notes, maps, manuscripts, and publications. The collection documents Ahmadjian’s work on lichen symbiosis, his professional career, and his participation in professional organizations.


  • 1952-2003

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


7.5 linear feet (5 record center cartons, 3 manuscript boxes)

Biographical Note

Vernon Ahmadjian was born on May 19, 1930 in Whitinsville, Massachusetts to Nishan and Annie Ahmadjian (née Ohanian). He attended Northbridge High School and graduated from Clark University in 1952. He spent two years in Korea with the U.S. Army Combat Medical Corps then returned to Clark and completed a master’s degree in 1956. A meeting with lichenologist Ivan MacKenzie Lamb led Ahmadjian to study lichens at Harvard, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1960.

Ahmadjian held academic appointments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the University of California, Berkeley, and at Clark University, where he spent most of his career. His research led to the development of new laboratory techniques for lichen synthesis and many discoveries on the nature of lichen symbionts. Ahmadjian was a prolific author and published hundreds of articles and several books. In 1967 the National Science Foundation named Ahmadjian Peak in the Queen Alexandria Range of the Transantarctic Mountains in his honor and awarded him the Antarctic Medal in recognition of his work on lichens at McMurdo Station.

Ahmadjian was a member of several professional associations and was particularly active in the International Association for Lichenology, which recognized his research, achievements, and generosity with the Acharius Medal in 1996. Ahmadjian and his first wife, June M. Allstrom, had three children: Christopher, Jonathan, and Christina. After June’s death in 1971, Ahmadjian remarried Janice M. Johnson. Ahmadjian died on March 13, 2012, in Falmouth, Massachusetts.


Smith DC, Seaward, MRD. 2013. A tribute to Vernon Ahmadjian (19 May 1930-13 March 2012). Lichenologist. 45(2):133-136.

Vernon Ahmadjian, PhD., 81. Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA), 2012 Mar 18.

Series Description

The collection is arranged in four series:

Series 1: General correspondence, 1955-2003

Series 2: Research materials, 1954-1983, undated

This series is divided into two subseries:

A. Photographs, Microscopic Images, and Drawings, undated

B. Laboratory Notes, Maps, Bibliographies approximately 1954-1983, undated

Series 3: Publications, 1952-1993, undated

This series includes drafts and correspondence for seven of Ahmadjian’s manuscripts and publications. The published works include "Lichen Symbiosis I," "Flowering Plants of Massachusetts," "Symbiosis: An Introduction to Biological Associations," and "Lichen Symbiosis II."

Series 4: Professional Activities, 1967-1997

Contains correspondence, drafts, questionnaires, and press releases for the International Lichenological Newsletter, 1967-1974. Also includes photographs and correspondence for the Kyoto Symposium, 1983-1987 as well as Ahmadjian curricula vitae, correspondence about Ahmadjian’s nomination as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his receipt of the Acharius Medal for outstanding contributions to lichenology.


Ahmadjian donated his papers to the Farlow Herbarium in 2006.

Separated Materials

An autographed copy of Annie Lorrain Smith’s 1921 “Lichens” with autographs of 69 lichenologists was added to The Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany rare book collection. Call number: S643L (copy 2)

The original inventory contained a series called Academic Material and Academic Administration, 1970-1996. The series included correspondence, studies, reports, and reviews from Ahmadjian’s time as a faculty member at Clark University, MA. That material has been separated from the collection and was transferred to Clark University in May 2017.

Two folders of restricted correspondence with Philip W. Rundel and Richard Traina were also returned to Clark University. The folders contained a C.V as well as salary information.

Ahmadjian, Vernon. Vernon Ahmadjian papers, 1952-2003: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany specializes in organisms that reproduce by spores, without flowers or seeds. The Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Farlow Herbarium.

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