Robert E. Forster

Robert Elder Forster

Robert Elder Forster II was born in St. David's Pennsylvania, and has lived in that neighborhood for most of his life. He graduated from Radnor High School in Wayne in 1937 and with his family took up residence again in that area (Haverford) some twenty years ago. Much of his education and training, however, was completed in New England. From high school he enrolled in the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in biological sciences. At this time one could leave Yale in three years and get credit for the first year of medical school as the last year of college, so he entered the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine in 1940. World War II accelerated medical school training, and he was able to graduate in December 1943 to take an internship in medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He had only an abbreviated period as a house officer, and in October 1944, having been discharged from the U.S. Navy as physically unfit, he entered the Army. After basic training at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps Climatic Research Laboratory in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This appointment was available because of the ill fortune of Clifford Barger, who had been at the laboratory but had contracted tuberculosis. At the Quartermaster Corps Laboratory, Forster did research on temperature regulation and heat exchange in the course of testing and helping design new field clothing and equipment for military personnel.

Forster had been interested in doing research as a medical student. Stimulated by his teachers, Julius Comroe and Carl Schmidt, he had measured changes in blood plasma viscosity with thiocyanate treatment for hypertension and had published his first article in the "yellow journal" of Lea and Febiger, the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. During several summer terms he worked at the Alfred I. DuPont Institute in Wilmington, which was then affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in biochemical research. There he first learned to operate a Van Slyke manometric gas analyzer under the tutelage of Douglas MacFadyen and Murray Angevine, who had been colleagues of D. D. Van Slyke at the Rockefeller Institute.

Near the end of 1946 Forster was discharged from the Army and spent the next year as a graduate student in mathematics; he took courses in physics, mathematics, and physical chemistry in the graduate school at Harvard. When he returned in 1947 as a resident in internal medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, he was permitted to measure the pulmonary arterial blood temperature with a wedge catheter in a patient of Lewis Dexter. He also borrowed an ear oximeter from Glenn Millikan for studies on the oxygenation of some of Samuel A. Levine's patients.

On a Life Insurance Medical Research Fund Fellowship, Forster then spent two years in the Department of Physiology at Harvard Medical School under Eugene M. Landis. He first worked on a thermostromuhr, a method for the measurement of intestinal blood flow. He then moved on to measure changes in hypothalamic temperature in a chronic unanesthetized cat during changes in environmental temperature conditions.

At the end of his postdoctoral fellowship Forster sought an academic post and visited several departments of medicine and physiology.  He was offered, and he accepted, a position as assistant professor of physiology in anesthesiology under Robert Dripps and Julius Comroe in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine.

In 1957 Julius Comroe left the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania to set up the new Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, School of Medicine at San Francisco. George Koelle became chairman of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the School of Medicine to succeed Carl Schmidt. At this point Forster became chairman of the physiology part of the Graduate School of Medicine, the latter under John Brobeck. In 1970 Brobeck resigned in favor of Forster, and the existing departments were fused.

For additional information about Robert Elder Forster II -