Artists & Musicians
Engineers & Architects
Government Officials
Medical Researchers
Armed Forces
Furchgott, Robert F.

Robert Furchgott is an American pharmacologist who, along with Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad, was co-awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery and demonstration that nitric oxide can act as a signaling molecule. His efforts were a major part in uncovering an entirely new mechanism by which blood vessels in the body relax and widen. His research and contributions opened an active field of research into the behavior of nitric oxide.

Furchgott was born on June 4, 1916 in Charleston, SC and lived there until the age of thirteen. In 1929, his family decided to move to Orangeburg, SC. Later, in 1937, Furchgott received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of North Carolina and in 1940 he received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Northwestern University. He joined SUNY-Brooklyn's department of pharmacology in 1956, a position he held until 1988, when he became an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Florida.

Furchgott was able to demonstrate that cells in the endothelium, or inner lining, of blood vessels produce a signaling molecule. The molecule, which he named endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) signals smooth muscle cells in blood vessel walls to relax, dilating the vessels. The research done by Furchgott was very important in the development of the highly successful anti-impotence drug sildenafil citrate, more commonly known as Viagra. Researchers have suggested that nitric oxide could be a key to improved treatments for heart disease, shock, and cancer.