Eminent Medicinal Plant Researcher Norman R. Farnsworth Dies at 81


Austin, TX—Renowned in the field of pharmacognosy and a mentor to countless other researchers, Norman R. Farnsworth, Ph.D. passed away at the age of 81 at a Chicago hospital on September 10, after a period of declining health from congestive heart failure and type 2 diabetes lasting several months.

Born March 23, 1930 in Massachusetts, Farnsworth was a veteran of the Korean War, and went on to get his degree in pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1953 and his Ph.D. in pharmacognosy (the study of drugs from natural origins) from the University of Pittsburgh in 1959. He helped institute a pharmacognosy doctoral program at Pitt and was the first to chair it. He went on to hold long-lived departmental and research posts at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). While at UIC, he held the title of Director of the World Health Organization Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, a program that pioneered collaboration between scientists in various fields of medicinal plant research.

Also at UIC, as head of its pharmacognosy graduate program, he mentored more than 100 Ph.D. and 30 M.S. students. Professor Farnsworth was an internationally-recognized scholar, publishing as author or co-author hundreds of research papers in peer-reviewed journals. He co-founded the peer-reviewed journal Phytomedicine, now recognized as one of the leading scientific journals in this field. Farnsworth also co-founded the American Botanical Council (ABC), an independent nonprofit research and education organization, and was the longest-serving member of ABC’s Board of Trustees.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2011 (online 9/12/11)