Jonathan Hartwell
Jonathan Hartwell
1906 - 1991
Born: 1906 (Boston, MA) - Died: March 22, 1991 (Wash., D.C.)

The untimely death of the cancer screen
I'm here to eulogize:
The screen's mean genes were not foreseen
They, too, would metastasize.


Anonymous poet

Plants Used Against Cancer by Dr. Jonathan L. Hartwell
The quotation on the previous page was taken from a rare book, entitled Plants Used Against Cancer* by Dr. Jonathan L. Hartwell, who worked at the National Cancer Institute from 1938 (in fact, according to Ralph W. Moss, was one of its founders) until his retirement from the NCI's Natural Products Section (which he also founded) in 1975. He studied botanical sources for cancer treatment for most of his career. The book was published in 1981 by Quarterman Publications in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and although it is Hartwell's most quoted work and it's probably safe to say it was his "magnum opus," it still was one of only a hundred or more papers and books which Hartwell authored.
Not long after the book was published Quarterman Publications went out of business and Dr. Hartwell died. We own an original hardbound copy of the book and keep it at our offices.
Jonathan Hartwell was born in 1906 and educated at Harvard. He earned in bachelor's degree in 1927; master's in 1929; and a doctorate in 1935. He was employed by both DuPont and Interchemical Corporation before his association with the National Cancer Institute in 1938. As head of the National Products Section, Hartwell devoted himself to the reserach and administration of cancer research. He was honored with a seat on the editorial board of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology as well as membership in the professional societies: the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Pharmacognosy, the Society for Economic Botany, and the Phytochemical Society of North America. Hartwell died on March 22, 1991 in Washington, D.C., where he resided with his wife, Ann.
We feel that the following quotation, taken from the book's foreword by Jim Duke, is a story worth telling. As you read this excerpt, remember that it was written in January, 1982:
"... I view [Jonathan's book] as one epitaph to the cancer-screening program involving the National Cancer Institute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nearly 25 years. In a blow to natural-products chemistry in the United States, the Board of Scientific Counsellors, Division of Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute, voted on October 2, 1981, to abolish the NCI research contract program concerned with the development of antitumor agents from plants. I fear this signals the end of significant government-sponsored research in the United States on medicinal plants, leaving research to the pharmaceutical firms, who have shown relative disinterest in plant products.

According to the OTA (Office of Technology Assessment, 1981) Project Proposal, approved by Congress, Technologies for Sustaining Tropical Forest Resources (p. 15), "The National Cancer Institute has screened about 35,000 higher plants species for activity against cancer; as of 1977 about 3,000 of these had demonstrated reproducible activity; a small fraction were appropriate for screening should perhaps be accelerated." Apparently, Congress had not anticipated the closing down of the plant screening program. In 1978, as a longtime student of herbal medicine, I changed places with Dr. R.E. Perdue as leader of the Medicinal Plant Resources Laboratory of the USDA. Although no exciting new leads developed during my association with the program, they may well reside untested in the hundreds of plant specimens that came in from Australia, China, Ecuador, Madaagascar, and Venezuela after the program was ordered phased out. I fear that the long-range implications are that, as a result of this cutback, some plant species with anticancer activity will suffer extinction before they are ever studied. Some natural drugs that could save thousands of lives and alleviate much suffering will disappear from the face of the earth, irretrievable, without ever being used...


Dr. Wilburn H. Ferguson & The Suppression of Ammatosin
We are aware of a number of cases involving Jonathan Hartwell's work -- where higher-appointed authorities within the NCI, acting in concert with friends in the pharmaceutical industry, would squash a project that showed real promise in the area of cancer research. One of these was an herbal project called "ammatosin," developed over a twenty year period by a phytopharmacologist who has been reported to be the original inspiration behind the movie, Medicine Man (1992), Dr. Wilburn H. Ferguson. [The fictional story, however, takes place in neighboring Brazil.]
Equador As the story is told by Ferguson family members, Wilburn went to the Amazonian jungles of eastern Equador in the 1950's to research a herbal product that was reported to cure cancer in all but the rarest of cases. He spent about twenty years reducing the formula, which was part of the oral ethnobotanical pharmacopaeia of the Jivaro indians, from 35 herbs down to 7 -- in other words, he left in the formula only those herbal components which were shown to make a contribution to the cancerolytic process.
A series of clinical human studies were initiated, all of which demonstrated that the product worked as well as any control pharmaceutical to which it was compared. (One set of clinicals were conducted in Pama Valley, California - 1959-1960; to be followed by other clinicals that produced similar results). Dr. Hartwell was first notified of these results by Professor John Harris in a letter dated April 6, 1971 -- upon which Hartwell began investigations of his own. Ferguson attempted to get funding from George Zimmer (owner of Men's Warehouse in Houston), but was unsuccessful.
Hartwell was asked to drop the investigation, funding was never obtained as a result of a lack of any "official" approval, and today, the product is made privately by members of the Ferguson family -- who refuse to do anything further to bring the formula to the public for fear of reprisal from regulatory agencies.
Such is the legacy of the best minds in natural, alternative botanical solutions to cancer treatment in the modern age. And no such list could be properly compiled without including the name of Jonathan Hartwell.


Footnotes & Relevant Links

* --- Plants Used Against Cancer was published in hardbound in 1982 by Quarterman Publications, Inc. (last address of record: 5 South Union Street, Lawrence, Massachusetts 01843). We went to great lengths to contact any remnants of Quarterman in early 1993 -- to no avail. Their last phone number was (508) 689-0207, and the offices were in a structure known as the "Ere Mill Building." We could find no one who would admit knowing anything about the company in Lawrence. For the record, the book copyright page reads, "This work is a facsimile compilation of the serialization entitled, "Plants Used Against Cancer. A Survey" by Jonathan L. Hartwell which appeared in Lloydia in eleven installments between 1967 and 1971. The original text has been reproduced chronologically with the pages renumbered consecutively. A forward has been added to this edition." [by Jim Duke, dated January, 1982] Plants Used Against Cancer was part of a two volume "Bioactive Plants" series published by Quarterman. The first volume was called Medicinal Uses of Plants by Indian Tribes of Nevada by Percy Train, James R. Hendrich, and W. Andrew Archer. Additional identifying information on Plants Used Against Cancer includes the following:

Library of Congress Catalog Number: 81-85230
International Standard Book Number: 0-88000-130-5
Printed in the United States of America

Herbalgram article on Hartwell
Chinese Tree Extract -- a valuable cancer-fighting botanical source, the discovery of which was a Hartwell contribution
Hartwell and the Yew Tree discovery
Comments on his work in uncovering plant-based cancerolytics
Comments on Jonathan Hartwell by Ralph W. Moss
The Hoxsey Formula -- Hartwell founded cancer-fighting properties in virtually all the herbs used in the much maligned internal Hoxsey formula.

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