Paul Greengard, a neurobiologist whose work has led to the advancement of treatment of neurological and psychological diseases, passed away on Saturday, April 13, in Manhattan.
The news was confirmed by the Rockefeller University, where the distinguished scientist worked for several decades. He was 93 years old.
A Great Mind
Dr. Greengard was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 alongside Arvid Carlsson and Eric Kandel. The neuroscientists were recognized for their individual research that led to "discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system." Their work offered a better understanding of disorders linked to cell communication like Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, depression, and drug addiction.
"His discoveries laid out a new paradigm requiring the understanding of the biochemistry of nerve cells rather than simply their electrical activities," stated Richard P. Lifton, president of Rockefeller University. "This work has had great impact. Today, abnormalities in signaling among neurons are recognized to underlie many neurologic and psychiatric disorders including Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse."
However, Greengard was not always revered. In the 60s, his work was largely ignored by the scientific community because, at the time, his colleagues believed that nerve cells communicate exclusively through electrical impulses.
In an interview in 2011 via The New York Times, Greengard admitted that for a long time, he thought his work will not be accepted in his lifetime. Ultimately, he proved that electrical and chemical signaling work in tandem, earning him international acclaim.
A Life Dedicated To Science
Until his later years, Greengard worked on studying the human brain, focusing his genius in understanding how specific disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's develop. He investigated why some brains cells are vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases while others are not. He also studied the pathways responsible for the production of the plaques that build up in the brain of people who have Alzheimer's.
With his wife, sculptor Ursula von Rydisvard, Greengard used his Nobel Prize money to establish his own award dedicated to recognizing female scientists in biomedical research. He named the award after his mother Pearl Meister Greengard who died giving birth to him.
Greengard is survived by his wife, his sister Linda, his three children, and six grandchildren.