Noted VU Scientist Chytil Dies at 85

February 12, 2010

BY: MELISSA MARINO

Frank Chytil, R.T.Dr., distinguished emeritus professor of Biochemistry, died Jan. 31 at age 85.

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1924, Dr. Chytil completed his doctoral degree in 1952 from the School of Chemical Technology in Prague and spent his early years in research at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physiology.

In 1964, after completing postdoctoral training at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., Dr. Chytil returned briefly to Czechoslovakia, which was under communist rule at the time. In 1966, Dr. Chytil, his wife, Lucie, and their children escaped the “paradise of communism” and immigrated to the United States.

Dr. Chytil came to Vanderbilt University as an assistant professor of Medicine in 1969, transferring to the Department of Biochemistry in 1973.

Frank Chytil, R.T.Dr.

He became a full professor of Biochemistry in 1975 and a General Foods Distinguished Professor in Nutrition in 1984.

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Chytil’s research focused on deciphering how vitamin A works at the molecular level. In 1983, he and his colleague, David Ong, Ph.D., were awarded the Osborne-Mendel Award of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences for their work on vitamin A metabolism

In 1993, Dr. Chytil received the Lederle Award in Human Nutrition of the American Institute of Nutrition for his research on the physiological role of vitamin A in tissue development and maintenance, particularly in the lungs.

His research advanced the understanding of how vitamin A affects lung function of premature infants.

Dr. Chytil retired from Vanderbilt in 2000. In 2003, he published an autobiographical essay in the Annual Review of Nutrition — titled “Rough and Rocky Road to the Retinoid Revolution”- which detailed his research and his life in Czechoslovakia under Nazi occupation and later communist rule.

“Frank Chytil was a great gentleman and a great scientist,” said Michael Waterman, Ph.D., professor and chair of Biochemistry.

“He always served his institution and his colleagues in a distinguished way, and he will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Chytil is survived by his wife, Lucie, who worked as a research assistant in his lab from 1970-1993, a son, Frank Chytil Jr, and two daughters: Helena Chytil Bewley, and Anna Chytil, who is a senior research specialist at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, in Benton Chapel on the Vanderbilt University campus.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, to the attention of Marlee Crankshaw.

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