Robert F. Furchgott
Robert Francis Furchgott

June 4, 1916 (1916-06-04)
DiedMay 19, 2009(2009-05-19) (aged 92)
Alma mater
Spouse(s)Lenore Mandelbaum (1941–1983; her death; 3 children)
Margaret Gallagher Roth (?–2006; her death)
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998
Scientific career

Robert Francis Furchgott (June 4, 1916 – May 19, 2009) was a Nobel Prize-winning American biochemist who contributed to the discovery of nitric oxide as a transient cellular signal in mammalian systems.

Early life and education

Furchgott was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Arthur Furchgott (December 1884 – January 1971), a department store owner, and Pena (Sorentrue) Furchgott. He graduated with from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1937 with a degree in chemistry and went on to earn a Ph.D in biochemistry at Northwestern University in 1940.[1]


Furchgott and other 1998 Nobel Prize winners with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, November 1998

Furchgott was faculty member and professor of pharmacology at Cornell University Medical College from 1940 to 1949, at Washington University School of Medicine from 1949 to 1956, at SUNY Brooklyn from 1956 to 1989, and at the University of Miami from 1989 through the end of his career.

In 1978, Furchgott discovered a substance in endothelial cells that relaxes blood vessels, calling it endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF).[2] By 1986, he had worked out EDRF's nature and mechanism of action, and determined that EDRF was in fact nitric oxide (NO), an important compound in many aspects of cardiovascular physiology. This research is important in explaining a wide variety of neuronal, cardiovascular, and general physiologic processes of central importance in human health and disease.[3]

In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of nitric oxide as a new cellular signal in 1998 with Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad,[4][5] [6] [7][8] [9] [10] Furchgott's discovery that Nitric Oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, provided a long-sought explanation for the therapeutic effects of Nitroglycerin used to treat Angina pectoris and was later instrumental in the development of the erectile dysfunction treatment drug Viagra.[11]

In 1991, Furchgott received a Gairdner Foundation International Award for his groundbreaking discoveries.[citation needed] He also received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1996[12] and the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1999 with Ferid Murad.[13][14]

Personal life

Furchgott was Jewish[15] and lived most of his married and career life in Woodmere, New York on Long Island. He was married to Lenore Mandelbaum (February 1915 – April 1983)[16] from 1941 until her death at age 68. They had three daughters: Jane, Terry, and Susan. His daughter, Susan, was an artist in the San Francisco counter-culture and co-founder of the Kerista Commune.

Furchgott spent his later years with Margaret Gallagher Roth, who died March 14, 2006.[17] He served as a professor emeritus at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. In 2008, he moved to Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood.


Furchgott died on May 19, 2009, in Seattle. He is survived by his three daughters, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.[18]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Robert F. Furchgott at Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. ^ Furchgott, Robert F.; Zawadzki, John V. (November 1980). "The obligatory role of endothelial cells in the relaxation of arterial smooth muscle by acetylcholine". Nature. 288 (5789): 373–376. Bibcode:1980Natur.288..373F. doi:10.1038/288373a0. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 6253831. S2CID 4303932.
  3. ^ "Summary: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1998". Nobel Media AB 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  4. ^ Raju, T N (2000), "The Nobel chronicles. 1998: Robert Francis Furchgott (b 1911), Louis J Ignarro (b 1941), and Ferid Murad (b 1936).", Lancet, vol. 356, no. 9226 (published Jul 22, 2000), p. 346, doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(05)73635-7, PMID 11071225, S2CID 53221905
  5. ^ Rabelink, A J (1998), "Nobel prize in Medicine and Physiology 1998 for the discovery of the role of nitric oxide as a signalling molecule", Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, vol. 142, no. 52 (published Dec 26, 1998), pp. 2828–30, PMID 10065255
  6. ^ Laufs, U; Erdmann, E (1998), "Nitric oxide as a signal molecule in the cardiovascular system. Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1998", Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr., vol. 123, no. 51–52 (published Dec 18, 1998), pp. 1562–5, doi:10.1055/s-0029-1237297, PMID 9893684, S2CID 68505199
  7. ^ Hansson, G K; Jörnvall, H; Lindahl, S G (1998), "The Nobel Prize 1998 in physiology or medicine. Nitrogen oxide as a signal molecule in the cardiovascular system", Ugeskrift for Læger, vol. 160, no. 52 (published Dec 21, 1998), pp. 7571–8, PMID 9889673
  8. ^ Nielsen, T T; Sørensen, K E (1998), "Discovery of "endogenous nitroglycerin", NO, as cellular signal molecule", Ugeskrift for Læger, vol. 160, no. 52 (published Dec 21, 1998), p. 7567, PMID 9889670
  9. ^ Mitka, M (1998), "1998 Nobel Prize winners are announced: three discoverers of nitric oxide activity", JAMA, vol. 280, no. 19 (published Nov 18, 1998), p. 1648, doi:10.1001/jama.280.19.1648, PMID 9831980
  10. ^ Hansson, G K; Jörnvall, H; Lindahl, S G (1998), "1998 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Nitric oxide as a signal molecule in the cardiovascular system", Läkartidningen, vol. 95, no. 43 (published Oct 21, 1998), pp. 4703–8, PMID 9821753
  11. ^ BBC News vom 23. Mai 2009: US „Viagra scientist“ dies at 92.
  12. ^ Furchgott, R.F. (1996), "The 1996 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards. The discovery of endothelium-derived relaxing factor and its importance in the identification of nitric oxide", JAMA, vol. 276, no. 14 (published Oct 9, 1996), pp. 1186–8, doi:10.1001/jama.276.14.1186, PMID 8827976
  13. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  14. ^ Robert F. Furchgott at Encyclopedia Britannica
  15. ^ "Seymour "Sy" Brody's". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  16. ^ "RootsWeb: Database Index". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  17. ^ "Paid Notice - Deaths ROTH, MARGARET - Paid Death Notice -". New York Times. 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  18. ^ "SUNY Downstate Medical Center". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  19. ^ "Robert Furchgott". Telegraph. 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2015-08-11.