NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NINDS/
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Biographical Sketch of NINDS Director
Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D.
Dr. Fischbach is an internationally renowned neuroscientist who throughout his career
has studied the formation and the maintenance of connections between nerve cells and their
targets. These connections, called synapses, are essential for transmission of information
in the brain and peripheral nervous system. He developed methods for growing nerve and
muscle cells outside the body and has used such tissue cultures to study small molecules
and proteins that alter synaptic efficacy.
Before his appointment as NINDS director, he was the Nathan Marsh Pusey professor of
neurobiology at Harvard University Medical School. He was also chairman of the departments
of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and the
founding director of the Harvard University Initiative on Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
Dr. Fischbach received his undergraduate degree in mathematics and chemistry from
Colgate University in 1960 and his M.D. from Cornell University Medical School in 1965.
After interning in medicine at the University of Washington, he worked at NIH for 8 years,
first as a senior surgeon with the NINDS, and later as a staff fellow at the (then)
National Institute of Child Health. Between 1973 and 1981, he served as an associate
professor and later as a full professor of pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. In
1981, he accepted the position as chairman of the department of anatomy and neurobiology
at Washington University School of Medicine.
Before leaving St. Louis to return to Boston, Dr. Fischbach became director of
Washington Universitys Jacob Javits Center for Excellence in Neuroscience, and the
John S. McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology.
Among his many awards and honors, he is a member of the NAS Institute of Medicine and
American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served on numerous editorial and advisory
boards including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and
McKnight Foundation. He is a past-president of the Society for Neuroscience and he has
been a trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. He is currently a
nonresident fellow of the Salk Institute.
Directors of NINDS