Dr. Robert Canfield (1931-2020)

Dr. Robert Canfield

Dr. Robert Canfield

Dr. Robert Emerson Canfield, 89, of Cold Spring, died on Dec. 26 at his home following a brief illness.

He was born on June 4, 1931, in Great Neck, New York, the son of Lavergne and Louise (Miller) Canfield. While growing up, Bob spent summers in Staatsburg, where he developed a love of the Hudson Valley and a sense of his family roots there, which date to the 18th century.

Bob attended the Lehigh University School of Engineering and studied medicine at the University of Rochester. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Drawing on his engineering background, he entered medicine with an interest in basic research and spent four years at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, as an associate in the laboratory of Christian Anfinsen. While there, he laid the foundations for an approach to scientific investigation that would serve him throughout his career, but as importantly, established close friendships with a small group of colleagues whose interactions he would cherish lifelong, his family said.

Returning to New York in 1963, Bob joined the faculty of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. His career spanned nearly 50 years, across research interests that included the fundamental mechanisms of cellular protein production, bone metabolism and the origins of Paget’s disease, and the hormonal changes of pregnancy, ushering in a new field of investigation into previously unrecognized early pregnancy loss.

These efforts were conducted largely under the aegis of NIH grant support. Shortly before his retirement Bob received a letter from this agency informing him that he ranked among the top 5 percent of NIH-funded researchers nationally over the course of his career, his family said.

Along with his research efforts, he was deeply invested in medical education, developing and directing a pivotal course in human biology for 25 years, highly innovative at the time for its multidisciplinary integration. He greatly enjoyed mentoring trainees in his lab and advising medical students as they strove to discern their own career paths.

Bob and his wife Carol, who died in 2016, enjoyed the Hudson Valley for more than 30 years, including immersing themselves in Cold Spring, boating on the Hudson River, and exploring all corners of the world.

He is survived by his children, Stephen Canfield (Mark Banco), Sara Carpenter (Scott) and Thomas Canfield, and their mother, Marilyn Kayner Canfield. He is also survived by his grandchildren: James, Danielle, and Matthew Canfield of Danbury, Connecticut, and Gretchen, Peter and Emma Carpenter of Denver, as well as close friends Urszula and Tadek Rzasa of Wappingers Falls.

Funeral services will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center (constitution.audubon.org) or to Boscobel (boscobel.org).

Information provided by Clinton Funeral Home

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