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Deaths: Norman Farnsworth

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Norman Farnsworth

Norman Farnsworth recruited talented scientists and encouraged them to work collaboratively.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Norman Farnsworth, medicinal plant researcher
Norman R. Farnsworth, 81, distinguished professor of pharmacognosy who spent more than 50 years studying the medicinal properties of natural plant products, died Sept. 10.

Farnsworth, director of the Program for Collaborative Research, was a faculty member for more than 40 years, including 12 years as head of pharmacognosy.

“We are consistently rated one of the top five research colleges of pharmacy in the United States, and that can be traced back to Norm,” said Jerry Bauman, dean of the College of Pharmacy.

“When he came to UIC, it transformed us from being predominantly a teaching-oriented institution to one making major scientific contributions that complement our educational programs. “

In 1982, Farnsworth became director of UIC’s Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, an internationally known center for the study of biologically active natural products.

Under his direction, the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy became one of six research centers established by the National Institutes of Health to study dietary supplements.

The UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research focuses on products that may improve women’s health and quality of life, specifically menopause, premenstrual syndrome and persistent urinary tract infections.

“Norm had the ability to recruit extremely talented colleagues and get them to work collaboratively toward common research and scientific goals,” Bauman said.

Farnsworth’s research was also funded by the National Science Foundation, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, industry and private donors. His research led to more than 500 scientific publications and reviews.

He was a longtime member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Traditional Medicine and director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine Program in the College of Pharmacy.

He was editor-in-chief of the Natural Products Alert Database (NAPralert), a system he established in 1975. NAPralert is an online collection of more than 150,000 scientific articles, an important resource for scientists.

He received the Research Achievement Award from the American Society of Pharmacognosy and the North American Menopausal Society/Enzymatic Therapy Botanicals Research Award.

Drafted into the Army infantry at 18, he was wounded in the Korean War. He was awarded the Korean Ribbon with Four Battle Stars, the Combat Medical Badge and the Bronze Star for Valor.

Farnsworth received a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

Donations in his memory can be made to the University of Illinois Foundation/University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy, 833 S. Wood, Chicago IL 60612, for the Norman R. Farnsworth Endowed Professorship in medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy.

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