- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Robert James Gorlin

Born  1923
Died  2006

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American oral pathologist and geneticist, born January 11, 1923, Hudson, New York; died August 29, 2006, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Biography of Robert James Gorlin

Robert James Gorlin achieved penetrating insights into genetic disorders of the head and neck and helped write a definitive medical reference work on the causes of facial malformations.

He graduated at Columbia College, served in the US Army during World War II and then studied at the Washington University School of Dentistry, graduating in 1947. He later obtained a M.S. in Chemistry at the State University of Iowa. After a number of academic posts Gorlin in 1956 moved to the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, where he became professor and chairman of the division of oral pathology in 1958 and regents professor in 1979.

Gorlin became internationally known for his work in craniofacial and deafness syndromes. His major contribution was the delineation of cranio-facial syndromes and he published more than 400 articles in this field. His monograph Syndromes of the Head and Neck is the definitive work on the subject.

In 1974, Gorlin was awarded the Washington University Founders Day Distinguished Alumnus Award. From May 2000, he was Regents' Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology and Genetics, department of oral sciences, University of Minnesota. Here he served as professor of pathology, dermatology, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynaecology and otolaryngology. He also served as president of the International Association for Dental Research, the American Academy of Oral Pathology and the International Society of Craniofacial Biology.

In addition to his duties in dentistry, he held appointments in the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Dermatology, and Otolaryngology. He was one of the founders and a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Genetics, Clinical Genetics.

Gorlin served for 30 years as editor of the oral pathology section of the Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine and Oral Pathology. He was on the editorial board of the American Journal of Medical Genetics from 1977 and of Dysmorphology and Clinical Genetics since 1982.

In 1997, Gorlin received the Premio Anni Verdi award in Spoleto, Italy. He was a senior fellow of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences. "Bob" Gorlin continued his writing and research until shortly before his death.

We thank Frederick Hecht, MD, for information submitted.


  • R.J. Gorlin, K.L. Jue, V. Jacobsen, E. Goldschmidt:
    Oculo-auriculovertebral dysplasia.
    Journal of Pediatrics, St. Louis, 1963, 63: 991-999.
  • R. J. Gorlin, Jens Jørgen Pindborg (1921-1995):
    Syndromes of the head and neck. First edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964.
  • R.J. Gorlin, J. J. Pindborg and M. M. Cohen.
    Syndromes of the Head and Neck. 2nd edition, 1976.
  • R. Goodman and Robert J. Gorlin:
    The Malformed Infant and Child: An Illustrated Guide.
    New York, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 72-73.
  • R. E. Tipton, R. J. Gorlin:
    Growth retardation, alopecia, pseudo-anodontia,and optic atrophy--the GAPO syndrome: report of a patient and reviewof the literature.
    The American Journal of Medical Genetics, New York, 1984, 19: 209-216.
    The GAPO syndrome is the acronymic designation for a complex of growth retardation, alopecia, pseudoanodontia (failure of tooth eruption), and progressive optic atrophy.
  • R.J. Gorlin, M.M. Cohen Jr. and L. Stefan Levin:
    Syndromes of the Head and Neck.
    3rd edition. Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.
  • R.J. Gorlin, M. M. Cohen Jr and Raoul C. M. Hennekam:
    Syndromes of the Head and Neck.
    4th edition, Oxford University Press, 2001. 1282 pages.
    “Anyone, anywhere who is involved in oral pathology has a copy of this book close at hand.”
    Robert M. Brandjord, oral surgeon and President of the American Dental Association, and a former student of Gorlin.
  • R.J. Gorlin, M. M. Cohen, Jr. and L. S. Levin:
    Syndromes of the Head and Neck.
    3rd edition, with Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.
  • M. M. Cohen, F. C. Fraser, R. J. Gorlin:
    Craniofacial disorders.
    In: Principles and Practice of Medical Genetics, edited by A.E. Emery and D. Rimoin. London, Churchill Livingstone, 1990.
  • Hereditary Hearing Loss and its Syndromes.
    Edited by Robert J. Gorlin, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Minneapolis, Helga V. Toriello, Michigan State University, Grand Rapids, and M. Michael Cohen, Jr., Dalhousie University.
    New York, Oxford University Press, 1995. 457 pages. 488 pages; 900 illustrations.
    This definitive reference work replaces Konigsmark and Gorlin's Genetic and Metabolic Deafness (1976). Whereas the earlier volume covered 151 genetic conditions related to hearing loss, this work covers 435. As before, the authors first discuss isolated hereditary hearing loss and then present hearing loss syndromes such as those involving the nervous system, eye, external ear and musculoskeletal system.
  • Piranit N. Kantaputra, Robert J. Gorlin, and Leonard O. Langer, Jr:
    Dominant mesomelic dysplasia, ankle, carpal, and tarsal synostosis type: a new autosomal dominant bone disorder.
    Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Chiang Mai University.
    A new type of mesomelic dysplasia was in 3 generations of a large Thai family.
  • R.J. Gorlin:
    And the Band Played On . . . The American Journal of Human Genetics, Chicago, February 2005, 76 (2): 216-218. Obituary:
  • Jeremy Pearce:
    Robert Gorlin, 83, Pathologist and Expert on Facial Malformations, Is Dead.
    The New Yorks Times, September 14, 2006.

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