@University Of South Carolina, Family and Childhood
Robert F. Furchgott born at
His first marriage was to Lenore Mandelbaum in 1941 with whom he had three children. His wife died in 1983 after more than four decades of marriage.
He second marriage was to Margaret Gallagher Roth. They remained together till her death in 2006.
Robert F. Furchgott lived a long life and died on May 19, 2009, at the age of 92.
Robert Francis Furchgott was born on June 4, 1916, in Charleston, South Carolina, to Arthur Furchgott and Pena (Sorentrue) Furchgott. His father was a department store owner.
Growing up in a rural town, the young boy developed a love for nature. He would often visit nearby beaches, marshes and woods on field trips organized by the local Museum. In 1929, his family shifted from Charleston to Orangeburg where he spent his high school years.
He decided to become a scientist during his high school years. His parents encouraged him and gave him chemistry sets and a small microscope as presents. He finished high school in 1933.
He proceeded to complete a degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1937 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Northwestern University in 1940.
After completing his doctorate he was offered a postdoctoral position at the Cornell University Medical School in New York City in the laboratory of Dr. Ephraim Shorr, an Associate Professor of Medicine at the institute.
He worked and researched at Cornell from 1940 to 1949 when he left to accept an assistant professorship in pharmacology at Washington University School of Medicine. The 1950s marked an exciting period for him as he researched on the energy-metabolism and function of rabbit intestinal smooth muscle.
His further research shifted to the rabbit thoracic aorta from the intestine and he developed a method for determining how blood vessels respond to medications, neurotransmitters and hormones. By 1953, he had published a paper titled ‘Reactions of strips of rabbit aorta to epinephrine, isoproterenol, sodium nitrite and other drugs.’
In 1956, Furchgott became the chairman of the new Department of Pharmacology at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Medicine at New York City. There he performed vital research on photorelaxation of blood vessels, factors influencing contractility of cardiac muscle, peripheral adrenergic mechanisms, and receptor theory and mechanisms.
In 1980 he demonstrated that blood vessels widen because their linings produce a molecule to tell the vessels’ smooth muscle cells to relax. Following a few years of intensive research, he pinpointed the relaxing factor as nitric oxide (NO). He presented his findings in a symposium at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in 1986.
He is known for his research with nitric oxide (NO) which led to the discovery that NO acts as a signaling molecule in the mammalian cardiovascular system which is one of the most important discoveries in the history of cardiovascular medicine. His work also paved the way for further research which led to the development of Viagra, the anti-impotency drug.