Dr. Marilyn G. Farquhar – Women in Pathology

Dr. Marilyn G. Farquhar passed away in late 2019 after the announcement that she would receive the 2020 ASIP Gold-Headed Cane Award. The ASIP Gold-Headed Cane Award is the society’s oldest and most prestigious award. It was first given in 1919 and has been awarded on 68 occasions since that time. This award recognizes significant long-term contributions to the field of pathology, including meritorious research, outstanding teaching, general excellence in the discipline, and demonstrated leadership in the field of pathology.

Dr. Farquhar became a member of the American Society for Investigative Pathology in January of 1959, >60 years ago, and has remained continuously active until the time of her death. Her tremendous contributions to pathology research and science in general were recognized by the American Society for Investigative Pathology (and many others) through the course of her career. Dr. Farquhar embodied all of these attributes and was considered to be exceptional in these aspects. She made longstanding contributions to the field of pathology and disease-related research, generated an enormous body of work, made outstanding contributions to teaching and leadership at her own institutions, and provided service to the American Society for Investigative Pathology and the larger scientific community.

Dr. Farquhar earned an AB in Zoology (1949), and MA in Experimental Pathology (1952), and a PhD in Experimental Pathology (1955) from the University of California at Berkeley. She then assumed the position of Assistant Research Pathologist at the University of California at San Francisco (1956-1958), before moving to The Rockefeller University (New York, NY) as a Research Associate (1958-1962). In 1962, Dr. Farquhar returned to the University of California at San Francisco as an Associate Research Pathologist and was promoted to Associate Professor of Pathology in 1964, and then Professor of Pathology in 1968. In 1970, Dr. Farquhar returned to The Rockefeller University as Professor of Cell Biology. After a few years, Dr. Farquhar became Professor of Cell Biology and Pathology at the Yale University School of Medicine (New Haven, CT). She remained at Yale from 1973-1989, becoming the Sterling Professor of Cell Biology and Pathology in 1987. Dr. Farquhar’s last move was to the University of California at San Diego in 1990. She was appointed as Professor of Pathology and Coordinator for the Division of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and in 1999 was named Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, a position she held until 2008. Dr. Farquhar remained active in research until very recently when she finally retired.

Dr. Farquhar’s research was focused on ultrastructure of tissues and cells, and she pioneered numerous electron microscopy techniques that are still used today. Dr. Farquhar spent many years working on the glomerulus of the kidney, the anterior pituitary gland, the Golgi apparatus, and enzyme cytochemistry. She is recognized for her seminal work in the regulation of protein trafficking and signaling in endocrine and exocrine cells, and for defining the molecular mechanisms of glomerular filtration and pathology. Her research increased our basic knowledge of cellular structure-function relationships in normal tissues and in various disease states. Dr. Farquhar’s research was well funded over the years, and she received a Research Career Development Award from the NIGMS/NIH at the beginning of her career (1965-1973) and an NIH MERIT Award from the NIDDK/NIH in the final years of her active research (2009-2016). Over the course of her career, Dr. Farquhar published 319 papers and book chapters. Her earliest publication appeared in the American Journal of Pathology in 1953. Her most recent paper was published in 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. The impact of Dr. Farquhar’s research is reflected in her listing as one of the ten most cited women authors by the Science Citation Index from 1981-1989.

Dr. Farquhar’s excellence in research has been honored numerous times over her career. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1984, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. She received the E.B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology in 1987, the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Electron Microscopy Society of America in 1987, the Homer Smith Award from the American Society for Nephrology in 1988, the Gomori Award from the Histochemical Society in 1999, the Carl Gottschalk Prize from the University of North Carolina in 2002, and the A.N. Richards Award for Excellence in Basic Research in Nephrology from the International Society of Nephrology in 2003. Of particular note, Dr. Farquhar received the Rous-Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology in 2001 and the FASEB Excellence in Science Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2006. Dr. Farquhar also received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research (1998) and the Chancellor’s Revelle Medal (2018) from the University of California at San Diego.

Dr. Farquhar made significant contributions to the larger scientific community. She served as President for the American Society for Cell Biology (1981-1982), as well as on their Council (1966-1970, 1980-1983), and Executive Committee (1980-1983). She also served on the Council for the Histochemical Society (1967-1971). Dr. Farquhar was a member of several NIH study sections over four decades from the 1970s until 2009, and served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the NIDDK/NIH (1993-1998). She also served on the editorial boards of 11 journals, including being a past editorial board member for the American Journal of Pathology.

At the various institutions where Dr. Farquhar was a faculty member, she made contributions to teaching of various types of students, including graduate and medical students, she directed didactic courses, and also provided instruction through the various core facilities that she directed. In addition, Dr. Farquhar provided teaching/training for her laboratory members. Over the many years of Dr. Farquhar’s career, she hosted the training of 64 scientists as graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. The first of these was Dr. Dorothy (Dee) Bainton (1963-1969), and the most recent was Dr. Vanessa Taupin (2015-2016). Dr. Farquhar is noted for the exceptional training she provided to her students and postdoctoral fellows.
This is evident in the description provided by Dr. Pradipta Ghosh (University of California at San Diego) describing her experience working with Dr. Farquhar:

“…she would not only teach me how to write, but teach me how to ensure longevity in science, survive and thrive doing it, and how to nurture a body of work, give birth to a field, build a legacy, and grow them all through generations of mentees. But that is not all, she also taught me how to survive the ups and downs, and how to balance the guilt as a mother in science….”

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh

Dr. Farquhar was a role model for other women scientists. As described by Dr. Dorothy (Dee) Bainton:

“…Marilyn had the brilliance and persistence to make the most of every physical change…she was a wonderful role model for young women attempting to break into a man’s world…She advised women to follow their scientific interests with passion and persistence…She also broke with tradition and showed young women how they could have both a family with children, and a scientific career.”

Dr. Dorothy (Dee) Bainton Complete Tribute

Dr. Farquhar’s trainees went on to distinguished careers, most of them in academic research and some in industrial science. Several of these trainees went on to hold important positions at their respective institutions. Dr. Dorothy Bainton (for instance) was Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of California at San Francisco. Given Dr. Farquhar’s long career, many of her former trainees had successful careers of their own and retired before their mentor. It is clear that one of Dr. Farquhar’s most lasting contributions to science is reflected in her former trainees and their individual and collective accomplishments. Dr. William A. Muller (Northwestern University) stated that

“…Perhaps [Dr. Farquhar’s] most important service to the field has been the training of 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…”

Dr. William A. Muller Complete Tribute

Dr. Farquhar’s Gold-Headed Cane will be put on permanent display at the University of California at San Diego.