[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
October 2000

Richard N. Lolley, PhD (1933-2000)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2000;118(10):1471. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.10.1471

Richard N. Lolley, PhD, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and the Doheny Eye Institute (Los Angeles, Calif), and whose early research helped to found the field of neurochemistry, died of a heart attack April 3, 2000, at his home in Pasadena, Calif, at the age of 66 years.

The discovery by Dr Lolley and his colleagues nearly 30 years ago that cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMP) was of crucial importance in vision formed a basis for understanding the mechanisms that result in diminished vision and blindness.

He served as trustee and president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) from 1991 to 1992. He was awarded ARVO's Proctor Medal in 1994, the Jules Stein Living Tribute Award from Retinitis Pigmentosa International in 1985, the Alcon Institute Award for Excellence in Vision Research in 1991, and the R. S. Dow Neurological Sciences Award in 1992.

Before joining the University of Southern California 6 years ago as a professor of cell and neurobiology and ophthalmology, and as the associate dean for Scientific Affairs, the man fondly refered to as "Dick" had served for 30 years on the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. His laboratory was in the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Hospital in Los Angeles, where he pioneered a research career track followed by hundreds of PhD scientists.

Dick intended to develop vision as a model for the study of neurochemistry. Some dismissed his early findings, but he persisted and developed microassays in a model system to track the biochemical signaling pathway in the retina of mice. He was the first to identify the defect in cyclic GMP that leads to inherited blindness.

This led ultimately to the cloning of the gene responsible for inherited retinal degeneration in mice and dogs, and provided insights into the mechanisms responsible for human retinitis pigmentosa.

Throughout his scientific career, he was funded by the National Institutes of Health and held one of the first grants, "Maturation and Metabolism of Dystrophic Retina," reissued by the National Eye Institute when it was founded 30 years ago.

What was central for us, his colleagues, was Dick's keen sense of humor and his passion for graduate student education. He cared deeply about supporting the careers of junior research faculty and launching graduate students on a sound career path.

Dick was born in Blaine, Kan, on May 25, 1933, earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, in 1955, and set out to be a drugstore pharmacist. He switched fields and went on to earn a PhD in physiology and biochemistry from the University of Kansas in 1961, and soon chose to focus on cyclic GMP.

Dick's friends and colleagues knew him as brilliant, yet extremely modest. Besides his initial insights into vision at the molecular level, he discovered genes important in the functioning of the photoreceptors in the retina, naming "phosducin," which regulates phototransduction. Throughout the years, he has published more than 60 scientific papers and dozens of book chapters.

Dr Lolley is survived by his widow and collaborator, the molecular neurobiologist Cheryl Craft, PhD, a vision scientist at the Doheny Eye Institute and chair of the Department of Cell and Neurobiology at the University of Southern California. He is also survived by 3 daughters, Melissa of Santa Barbara, Calif; Cybele of Oakland, Calif; Emily Lolley-Kohl of Prescott, Ariz; 2 sisters, Catherine Burke and Ellen Rangel, both of Overland Park, Kan; a brother, Gregg Lolley of Stafford, Mo; and Dr Craft's sons, Tyler Cormney of Venice Beach, Calif, and Ryan Cormney of Seattle, Wash.