Leda Rebecca Asamov (April 10, 1988 – July 15, 2085) was an American physicist]] best known for founding Asamov Nanotech]] and for designing the Asamov Immuno-supplementation Microbots.
Leda Asamov was born in the town of Gaithersburg, Maryland in the United States. Her early aspirations were towards journalism (she was Editor-in-Chief of her high school publication), but by the time she graduated high school in 2006, her leanings were more towards science.
In fall of 2006 she enrolled at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts college in Ohio (United States). There she majored in physics, graduating with Honors in 2010. From there, she moved on to Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois to do her graduate work.
Asamov was first introduced to the field of nanoscience at Kenyon. In the summer after her sophomore year, she co-published an article with her advisor modeling the effects of force on diffusion in the case of a sub-micron sized polystyrene sphere suspended in an aqueous solution between two glass plates.
At Northwestern, her research continued, focusing more on nanoscale engineering, the construction of micron-sized objects with nanometer precision. Her Ph.D thesis was on self-replication.
In 2012, she married Antar Iliev, another graduate student in her program who specialized in computer modeling. Their daughter, Jane Iliev, was born in 2015.
Upon leaving Northwestern in 2016, she founded her eponymous nanotechnology firm. The firm, which specialized in the creation of micron-sized structures using nanoscale engineering, remained small, but prosperous for the next 20 years. Iliev went into academia, but frequently consulted on the firm's projects.
AIDS and Microbots
In 2035, while interning at a Chicago hospital, Jane Iliev was accidentally stuck with a needle contaminated with HIV. While treatable, the virus had no cure. The incident ended Jane's medical career, but necessitated her mother's entry into the field; in the same year, Asamov Nanotech announced that it would be shifting its focus to medical applications.
Three years later, the "AIDS Blocker" was born. The original 2038 "AIDS Blocker" took the form of a music player-sized device which its user would straps to one's waist about five minutes before intercourse. The device injected and controlled silicon-based microbots which were capable of targeting and destroying the HIV virus. When used with a condom, this machine cut risk of transmission of the disease to zero—literally; not a single case of transmission was ever reported. However, these microbots were not self-replicating, and their range was limited to the genital area, making this device far from a cure.
In 2040, Asamov Nanotech released two new versions of their original device—the famously popular "STD Blocker," which was able to target all known blood-born sexually transmitted diseases, and the "Mommy" version of the AIDS Blocker, designed to prevent nursing mothers from transmitting the disease to their offspring. Popular belief is that the Mommy version was developed for use by Jane. This rumor has proven to be apocryphal, as Jane Iliev, who at 115 has retired to a community outside her birthplace of Chicago, never had children (Jane, after leaving medicine, fell back on her B.A. in Journalism to become a foreign corespondent for The Washington Post, and, in a bizarre twist of fate, was actually one of the first to report on the initial outbreak of the chimeravirus).
As amazingly successful as these devices were, they fell short of a cure. The issue was self-replication: in order for the microbots to prove truly successful, they would have to manufacture themselves in the user's bloodstream. Unfortunately, the amount of silicon the user would consequently need to ingest would be fatal.
The breakthrough came in 2042 (though the finished product wouldn't appear until three years later). As her daughter reports in her biography, Asamov's insight came while watching a news program on the construction of the Ecuadorian Space Elevator. Writes Iliev,
The reporter was interviewing the chief engineer, who was boasting about the superiority of using carbon nanotubes over steel. My mother, frustrated as she was by the lack of progress, snickered that she should've gone into macroconstruction. After all, carbon was so much easier to work with than silicon. At that, she stopped, turned off the TV, and locked herself in her study.
Nearly all the nutrients humans ingest contain carbon. By producing her microbots out of carbon, Asamov had finally solved her self-replication problem. Three years later, the Asamov Immuno-supplementation Microbots were announced.
In test trials, the self-replicating microbots proved 100% effective, not only in wiping out HIV, but in neutralizing all pathogens while producing minimal side-effects (the low-intensity X-rays the microbots use caused a slightly higher risk of cancer, but future versions would prove effective in combatting these threats as well). Writes Iliev,
She could have made billions—a cure, not only to AIDS, but to syphilis, herpes, yellow fever, Ebola... even the common cold. Her real greatness, then, is not in her brilliance, but her compassion.
By now, Asamov Nanotech was a Fortune 500 company, with heavy profits still rolling in from the "STD Blocker." And there were very few costs associated with the microbots—once installed, they reproduced and maintained themselves. Even the control device was no more expensive to manufacture than a cell phone. The main cost per patient would come from a relatively simple surgical implantation. Thus, it was feasible, at the urging of its CEO and head researcher, for Asamov Nanotech to supply microbots to the world's 50 million HIV/AIDS sufferers, free of charge.
Asamov was unwilling to stop there. The microbots proved effective for those with any immunodeficiency ailment, including those undergoing chemotherapy. Furthermore, Asamov insisted the machines should eventually be adopted by the entire world population, as her artificial immune system proved in trials hardier than the one nature had provided. As a gesture to this end, Asamov and her husband had microbots installed in themselves in 2047, with neither ever suffering adverse effects (Antar Iliev eventually had his natural immune system removed in 2091 to allow his body to accept a transplanted heart).
By 2048, Leda Asamov was in intense negotiation with several HMO companies in an attempt to get the microbots available cheaply to the general public. However, the companies were reluctant, viewing use of microbots by the healthy as frivolous and unnecessary. Thus, despite her best efforts, by the time the chimeravirus broke loose, only approximately 100 million people globally had the artificial immune system to combat it.
With the entire remaining world population surviving thanks to her microbots, Asamov Nanotech had its work cut out for it. The company continues to release software updates to this day, making sure the microbots are always several steps ahead of the newest viral scare.
Asamov herself was offered leadership positions in the new World Government, but politely refused them, staying with her company until 2072, when she accepted the presidency of Kenyon College, her alma mater. She was the institution's last president, with the school dissolving due to lack of enrollment in 2083.
Asamov spent her final years with her husband in their home in rural Ohio, innovating new adaptations to her microbots. She died in 2085 of a stroke. Her husband published her unfinished papers the following year. In 2090, Jane Iliev published her biography, Small Victories, which remains a global best-seller.
It is no exaggeration to claim that Leda Asamov was the savior of mankind. Her microbots saved humanity from certain death at the hands of the chimeravirus, and in the process nearly doubled human life expectancy. She was awarded three Nobel prizes: Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2044 for the STD Blocker, Nobel Prize in Physics in 2046 for her self-replicating carbon-based microbots, and for Nobel Prize in Peace in the same year for making her treatments freely available to anyone who needed them.
A statue of her stands before the World Government headquarters in Nairobi.
- Iliev, Jane (2090). Small Victories. Algiers, Algeria: New World Press. ISBN 1934211500.
This page has been tagged Microbial Science Fiction.