Dear ISAC Community
It is with sadness and deep respect for Dr. Robert Fitzgerald that we share the news of his passing on April 20 at the age of 90. Bob was one of the ISAC (International Society of Arterial Chemoreceptors) founders in 1987, together with Carlos Eyzaguirre (USA), Sal Fidone (USA), Sukhamay Lahiri (USA) and Donald McDonald (USA). He was intensely committed to the Arterial Chemoreceptors Society and to its research on the carotid body and its importance in cardiovascular homeostasis. He was also deeply dedicated to the Environmental Health and Engineering Department at John Hopkins School of Public Health, in its goals of furthering scholarship and education for fellows, graduate and undergraduate students.
Bob’s academic training began at the University of Notre Dame and his undergraduate degree in engineering and classical languages was conferred by Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1954. Following a Master’s degree in philosophy he obtained his PhD degree from the University of Chicago in physiology in 1963. Further degrees in theology followed his PhD degree training at Woodstock College. Bob joined the departments of Environmental Medicine at John Hopkins as a part-time postdoctoral fellow in 1963 and was appointed assistant professor in 1967. While Bob was completing his postdoctoral training, he was a member of a Jesuit monastery in Baltimore. His 55 years as an academician at the Environmental Health and Engineering Department, John Hopkins School of Public Health, include a promotion to professor in 1978, services as associate chair from 1980 to 1988, acting director of the Division of Toxicological Sciences and interim Chair of the Department in 1990-1992.
Scientifically, Bob was a pioneer and a world-renowned expert in carotid body research, especially for establishing the hypercapnic sensitivity of the carotid body, and the cholinergic hypothesis of chemotransduction. He was an elected fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (1990). Bob was interviewed in an instalment of the American Physiological Society Living History of Physiology series, about his upbringing, Jesuit studies and how he eventually became interested in physiology (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v6ZUwvamPQ).
Bob’s resiliency as an academic scholar and scientist and through several personal health issues was remarkable. Perhaps one of Bob’s memorable attributes was that there was no gray area in his opinions, you always knew where he stood on an issue and he delighted in debating and arguing the fine points of science or his passion for baseball and soccer.
Dr. Fitzgerald is survived by his son Akira Shirahata Fitzgerald, who is a professional soccer player, and his loving partner Angela Ruddle, who was with him last eleven years of his life. Bob’s second wife, Dr. Machiko Shirahata, was also deeply committed with research on the carotid body field and with the ISAC community, until her death in 2016.
The International Society thanks Bob for his invaluable contribution for Arterial Chemoreception and express the deepest condolences to his Family.
Emilia C Monteiro, Silvia V Conde