A Tribute to Dr. Marilyn Farquhar

William A. Muller, MD, PhD

William Muller
William A. Muller MD PhD Pathology

It is hard to know where to start when writing about Marilyn’s achievements and contributions to the field of pathology and to the ASIP. She excelled in so many areas of research, and trained generations of experimental pathologists.

I followed and admired Dr. Farquhar’s contributions to experimental pathology for my entire career. As a medical student we were taught about her contributions to our knowledge of the cellular and molecular basis of glomerular filtration. We were shown her elegant physiologic and electron micrographic studies that defined the glomerular basement membrane as the primary filtration barrier of the kidney and the role of charged macromolecular constituents in health and disease. When I started my graduate school research on lysosomal membrane recycling, I came to know her as a contemporary. Her lab was studying a similar process in the Golgi and she published elegant studies using biochemical, physiological, and ultrastructural models that defined membrane trafficking between the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi and between the Golgi and the plasma membrane. As a young independent investigator, I followed her new experiments into the determinants of cell polarity that derived from her membrane trafficking studies. At the end of the 20th Century, she started to pursue work on the localization and signaling of G proteins.

However, unlike so many researchers who move from one field to another as their science evolves, Marilyn Farquhar did not leave the fields to which she had previously contributed. She added new areas to her list of expertise. She continued to publish studies of renal disease, particularly Heymann nephritis, the effect of proteoglycan charge on glomerular function in health and disease, and vesicular trafficking in a variety of cells and tissues even as she forged ahead in new areas.

It is probably fair to say that most scientists think of electron microscopy when they think of Marilyn Farquhar. This is based on her outstanding work in the field, particularly when the field was young, and her long-standing relationship (professionally and personally) with George Palade. However, Dr. Farquhar was far from a “one trick pony.” Her approach to science was always multidisciplinary, using the best approaches that science had to offer at the time. Her scientific toolbox included biochemistry, immunology, cell and molecular biology, and physiology, as these fields evolved with her. She was not afraid of new technology, but rather embraced it.

Dr. Farquhar’s contribution to science was recognized by others in the field. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1984 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. She won the NIH MERIT Award twice. She had a long list of other honors including the E.B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology, the FASEB Excellence in Science Award, and an honorary degree from the University of Vienna.

In addition to her own research, Dr. Farquhar contributed to the development of science through service to her universities and to national scientific and medical organizations. She served on numerous editorial boards and study sections. She served as President and Council Member for the American Society for Cell Biology. She served as Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine for nine years at UCSD.

Dr. Farquhar served ASIP through service on the editorial board of The American Journal of Pathology. She was the 2001 recipient of the Rous-Whipple Award, and, true to the criteria for that award of ‘continuing to make substantial academic contributions at the time of the award,’ she published 60 papers and trained 17 postdoctoral fellows since the award, bringing her grand total to 319 publications in a career that spanned almost 7 decades.

Perhaps her most important service to the field was the training of 47 experimental pathologists, most of whom have gone on to be leaders in the field of academic pathology and biomedical research in the United States and throughout the world. These include Dorothy Bainton, Daniel Friend, Yashpal Kanwar, Dontscho Kerjaschki, Volker Herzog, and Jennifer Stow.

Marilyn Farquhar will be missed, but her contributions to science will remain forever as essential stepping stones on the path to the full understanding of health and disease.

    Bill Muller
    April 4, 2020