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Arthur K. Asbury papers

Identifier: MSS 2/351

Scope and Contents note

The Arthur K. Asbury papers document his career at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, his leadership in the field of neurology, and his notable contributions to the advancement of knowledge about peripheral neuropathies, neuropathology, and neuromuscular diseases. Papers related to Dr. Asbury's work as an administrator at the School of Medicine constitute the largest portion of this collection. In addition to these administrative files, the collection contains records of Dr. Asbury's involvement with a wide range of national and international neurology associations; his publication of scientific articles and textbook chapters and his role as editor of key textbooks on the nervous system and peripheral neuropathies; his work as a consultant to several major scientific advisory projects; and his roles as teacher, researcher, and clinician. The collection is divided into seven series: "Early Career," "University of Pennsylvania Administration," "Professional Associations and Consulting," "Publications," "Teaching," "Visual and Research Materials," and "Awards and Citations."

The "Early Career" series is a small set of materials related to Dr. Asbury's work in Boston from 1960 to 1968 and his move to San Francisco in 1969. The "University of Pennsylvania Administration" series is the largest in the collection and covers the period from 1981 to 2007, though the bulk of the series documents Dr. Asbury's work at the School of Medicine as Vice Dean of Research, 1990-1993, and Vice Dean of Faculty Affairs, 1993-1997. The "Professional Associations and Consulting" series includes files on Dr. Asbury's participation in meetings of professional neurology societies, committees, and working groups; his role as a consultant for national medical advisory programs; and his participation as an external reviewer to peer institutions' neurology programs. Materials in this series date from 1971 to 2007. The "Publications" series documents Dr. Asbury's published articles, textbook contributions, and monographs as well as his editorial duties through article and chapter drafts, correspondence, prints, and some research notes. The "Teaching" series documents Dr. Asbury's presentations at grand rounds at the University of Pennsylvania and other medical schools, and a number of visiting professorships he held between 1983 and 2003. The "Visual and Research Materials" series illustrates Dr. Asbury's methods of research and teaching, and consists of a selection of micrograph prints, negatives, and glass slides; lecture slides; and several motion picture films. The last series, "Awards and Citations," includes plaques and commemorative photographs marking Dr. Asbury's achievements in his field.


  • Majority of material found within 1985 - 2000
  • 1958 - 2007


Conditions Governing Use note

The Arthur K. Asbury papers include records relating to living persons whose privacy rights must be respected. Materials such as medical records, legal records, faculty records and information, job candidate information, and letters of recommendation may be protected by law or by third-party privacy rights. Living individuals have a legally enforceable right to privacy and release of personally identifiable information contained in archival collections may give rise to liability (e.g., for defamation of character or invasion of privacy).

Please note that the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is not a covered entity under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and patient-related records within this collection are open for research. However, patrons are expected to use the material in a manner that does not reveal any personally identifiable information about persons who may be living.

Prior to using the collection, patrons must sign a form acknowledging responsibility for safeguarding privacy rights of individuals mentioned in the collection and agreeing to abide by any restrictions placed on the collection. Digital photography of items in the collection is not permitted. Patrons may request photocopies of collection materials; requests for reproductions of materials containing sensitive information may be denied.

Biographical/Historical note

Arthur K. Asbury, Van Meter Professor of Neurology Emeritus, is one of the country's most noted neurologists, recognized for his clinical and experimental studies of peripheral neuropathies, particularly those related to chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Dr. Asbury was born in 1928 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky in 1951, and went on to study at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, receiving his M.D. in 1958. His postgraduate training included an internship and residency in medicine, neurology, and neuropathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a teaching fellowship at Harvard Medical School. From 1963 to 1965 he held a research and clinical fellowship in neuropathology at MGH and a research fellowship in neuropathology at Harvard Medical School.

In 1969 he was appointed Chief of the Neurology Service at the San Francisco Veteran's Administration Hospital. He had a concurrent appointment as professor of neurology and pathology and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. AT UCSF, he served on the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate Committee on Educational Policy, and taught courses in neuropathology and neurological pathophysiology.

Dr. Asbury's tenure at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine began in 1973, when he was appointed Professor of Neurology and named chair of the Department of Neurology, a post he held until 1982. The following year he was appointed as the first Van Meter Professor of Neurology. In addition to his roles as clinician, researcher, and educator, Dr. Asbury held a several major administrative posts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In 1988 and 1989, he served as Acting Dean and Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. In 1990 he was named to a three year term as Vice Dean for Research, and in 1993 he accepted a four year term as Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs. In 2000-2001, Dr. Asbury served again as interim Dean of the School of Medicine. He was an invited lecturer or visiting professor at many universities and neurological institutes throughout the country, and he participated in external department reviews of peer institutions' neurology departments.

Dr. Asbury has published extensively, with over 200 articles, chapters, and reviews in print. He has written or edited five monographs on peripheral neuropathies, and is one of the editors of the standard reference text in neurology, Diseases of the Nervous System, the third edition of which was published in 2002. He has served on editorial boards of Annals of Neurology, Muscle and Nerve, the Journal of Neurological Sciences, and a number of other journals focused on both research and clinical aspects of neurology. He was Chief Editor of Annals of Neurology from 1984 to 1992, Series Editor of the Blue Books of Practical Neurology from 1981 to 2004, and Presiding Senior Editor of Neurology UpToDate online from 2003 to 2005.

As a leader in neurological organizations, Dr. Asbury served as Vice President of the World Federation of Neurology, which sponsors the World Congress of Neurology every four years, and is Past President of the American Neurological Association, the Association of University Professors of Neurology, and the Philadelphia Neurological Society. He is former Chair of the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Neuromuscular Diseases and currently serves as a trustee of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He has played a significant part in the governance and administration of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; he was elected a fellow of the College in 1974 and has been a trustee since 2002. From 2004 to 2006 he served as President of the College and in 2005-2006 he acted as interim CEO.

Dr. Asbury's scholarship has been widely recognized. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served on the Council of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, by distinction. In 2004, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine established the Arthur K. Asbury Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentoring, to be awarded annually. Other honors include the Daniel Drake Medal of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, in addition to its Distinguished Graduate Award; Honorary Professor of Medical Sciences, Hebei Medical College and Hebei Province, PRC; the I.S. Ravdin Master Clinician Award of the University of Pennsylvania Health System; the Lindback Award of the University of Pennsylvania for Teaching Excellence; Lifetime Achievement Award of the World Federation of Neurology for his work in neuromuscular diseases; the Meritorious Service Award of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; and Honorary Memberships in the American Neurological Association, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine, the Association of British Neurologists, and the European Neurological Society.

Bibliography: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Smell and Taste Center. Arthur K. Asbury curriculum vitae. Retrieved from

Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. Speaker's biography for Arthur K. Asbury, MD FRCP. Retrieved from


35.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials



Arthur K. Asbury (b. 1928), Van Meter Professor of Neurology Emeritus, is an internationally recognized neurologist, best known for his clinical and experimental studies of peripheral neuropathies. Most of his career was spent at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was a clinician, educator, researcher, and administrator. The bulk of this collection documents Dr. Asbury's work as Vice Dean of Research and Vice Dean of Faculty Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, his contributions to national and international neurological societies, his role as a consultant, and his publications on neuropathology, neuromuscular disorders, and peripheral neuropathies, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome and associated conditions. The collection includes a modest amount of material about his early career in Boston and San Francisco, courses he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions, and accolades he has received for leadership in his field.

Appraisal note

Personnel records of Dr. Asbury's administrative staff and house staff of the School of Medicine's Department of Neurology were separated from the collection. The collection was weeded of duplicate records, publications, and photographs; travel brochures, tickets, and receipts; curricula vitae that are likely to be available from other sources; and reprints and photocopies of scientific articles and textbook chapters. The original donation included a large number of micrographic prints, glass slides, and negatives, cases of microscope slides, and sets of lecture slides. In order to illustrate Dr. Asbury's research and teaching methods, a small number of these visual and research materials were selected to be included in the collection. The remainder of these items, many of them unidentified or only identified with a case number, were separated from the collection.

Processing Information note

This collection was processed using a "modified minimal processing" approach. The processing largely followed the strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections": some series, such as "Professional Associations, Consulting, and Lectures," were only minimally inspected; others, such as the "University of Pennsylvania Administration" files, were inspected more closely to identify sensitive items, but items within folders were not fully ordered. Most folders in the collection contain materials related to a subject, rather than items grouped by format. For example, researchers will find correspondence throughout the collection, not just in folders labeled "correspondence." Many folders' contents are roughly in reverse chronological order; this order has been maintained, but further sorting has not taken place.
Arthur K. Asbury papers
Finding aid prepared by Jennifer Barr and Garrett Boos.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Language of description note
Processing of this collection was made possible through the generous support of Dr. Arthur K. Asbury.

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States