Make Things Tick

On Oct. 12, 1998, Robert Furchgott received a phone call at 5:30 a.m. with news that he had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine alongside Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad. He was the first Carolina alumnus or faculty member to win a Nobel Prize.   

As a young boy, he was fascinated by nature and often attended nature-study classes. By the time he entered high school, he discovered his passion for chemistry and decided to become a scientist.

At Carolina, he worked as a lab assistant who researched the physical chemistry of solutions of cellulose. He graduated with a chemistry degree in 1937, and went on to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Northwestern University in 1940.

Over the next several decades, Furchgott conducted research at several universities including the State University of New York in Brooklyn, where he was a distinguished professor of pharmacology.

“My work is sort of old-fashioned pharmacology,” he told the New York Times in 1998 after winning the Nobel Prize. “Is it the highlight of my career? I guess in a way, though you don’t do research to win prizes. You do it because you’re curious about what makes things tick.”

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