John Charles Porter, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus: 2003 – 2018

John Porter, M.D.

John Porter was an early pioneer in the science that later became known as neuroendocrinology — the study of how the nervous system and the endocrine system interact.

He was among the first to study how the hypothalamus interacted with the pituitary gland and to measure peptide hormones in the brain. Using tiny cannulas and an “embolating” device to inject air bubbles at prescribed intervals, he collected discrete aliquots of hypophysial portal rat blood over long periods of time. This system was revolutionary because it prevented the mixing of peptides during prolonged collections.

A 1949 graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Dr. Porter received his Master of Arts degree from Texas Technological College in Lubbock (1950). After earning his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa (1952), he spent a year doing postdoctoral research under the direction of Edwin C. Hamblen, M.D., in the Division of Endocrinology at Duke University School of Medicine.

In 1953, he joined UT Southwestern Medical School as an Instructor of Physiology. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1955, Associate Professor in 1959, and Professor in 1964.

Following the establishment of the Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences, Dr. Porter became its scientific director. (Later, the Center became the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences.) In 1972, he received a joint appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and he moved his laboratories to the Department in 1973. In 1981, Dr. Porter became the first recipient of the newly created Arthur Grollman Professorship in Neuroendocrinology.

A leading authority on prolactin and dopaminergic research in the rat brain, he trained 35 research fellows from 16 countries over his 50-year career at UT Southwestern.

Dr. John Porter surrounded by five male fellows and one female fellow
John C. Porter, center, with fellows (from left) G. Howard Burrows, Mark M. Foreman, Gary A. Gudelsky, Marianne J. Reymond, C. Richard Parker, Jr., and Fred Tilders.

He maintained an NIH continuation grant for more than 30 years and published more than 270 scientific papers. His interest in the role of the pituitary gland in controlling dopamine neurons in the brain as it aged led to an NIH MERIT grant to study “Aging and Molecular Neuron Impairment” in 1989.

Retiring in 1995, he continued to work part time as an Adjunct Professor, consulting and mentoring faculty and fellows and distributing the tyrosine hydroxylase monoclonal antibody he had developed. After his full retirement in 2003, Dr. Porter became the first Ph.D. in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to be named Professor Emeritus — and only the third faculty member to achieve that status. Dr. Porter died in 2018 at the age of 93. He is buried in Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.