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Scientific Community Mourns Fleur L. Strand

The neuroscientist and former Academy board chair broke scientific and social ground throughout her long career.

Published January 11, 2012

Fleur L. Strand, a physiologist who was a pioneer of the neuropeptide concept, died of cancer on December 23, 2011, in her home in Snowmass Village, Colorado. She was 83.

Strand was actively involved in the New York Academy of Sciences throughout her career, being named a Fellow in 1976 and being elected as chair of the board in 1987. Both her leadership and her friendship will be missed by the Academy community. "Fleur was a role model: iconic and ahead of her time in a world of science that should have been far more open to women," says Academy President and CEO Ellis Rubinstein.

Most recently, Strand held the title of Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Biology and Professor of Neural Science, Emerita, at New York University (NYU), where she retired in 1997. After her retirement, she was appointed by Governor George Pataki to the New York State Spinal Injury Research Board in 2001 and served as a consultant for several pharmaceutical companies until 2010.

Throughout Strand's illustrious career, which began at NYU, where she received her BA, MS, and PhD degrees, she broke new ground, both in research and the role of women in science. In 1957, she received a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship to study at the Physiological Institute of the Free University in Berlin, Germany. During these early years of research, Strand was the first to show that stress-evoked hormones could have a direct effect on the peripheral nervous system, independent of the classical role of the adrenal gland. It took a number of years for the scientific community to accept the concept of neuropeptides.

Following her postdoctoral research in Berlin, Strand returned to NYU in 1961 and was appointed to a faculty position in the Biology Department. In 1980, she became the first female chair of the department. Strand remained an active researcher in the field of neuropeptides, as well as a beloved teacher and mentor, at NYU for 36 years. During this time, Strand sponsored more than 80 graduate student dissertations, authored multiple textbooks and primary research and review articles, and co-founded several professional societies, including the International Neuropeptide Society.

In her personal life, Strand enjoyed a long marriage to her husband of 65 years, Curt Strand. Curt Strand is a retired CEO of Hilton International. The couple enjoyed many years of vacationing in Snowmass Village, Colorado, before moving there full-time in 2004. A memorial celebration for Strand will be held on February 24 at the Snowmass Club.

Donations may be made to the Fleur L. Strand Award of the American Physiological Society ( or mailed to: The Fleur L Strand Award, APS Business Office, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD  20814.