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Obituary: Robert F. Cathcart III, M.D., innovator in medicine

Dr. Robert F. Cathcart III, world-renowned pioneer of high-dose vitamin C therapy and former Los Altos resident, died at Stanford University Hospital Oct. 17 in the company of his partner of 27 years, Alice Schenk. He was 75.

Dr. Cathcart was born in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Burlingame High School and earned a degree in economics from Stanford University before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1955.

Dr. Cathcart earned his doctorate at the UCSF School of Medicine in 1961. He did his surgical internship and residency at Stanford Hospital from 1961 to 1966 and was an instructor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford from 1966 to 1967.

While at Stanford he designed a prosthesis to replace the ball at the top of the femur, the upper leg bone. His design was based on his finding that the ball is ellipsoidal, rather than round, which had been assumed by earlier designers. The Cathcart Prosthesis has been implanted in more than 100,000 hips.

In 1980 he relocated to San Mateo and in 1985 to Los Altos. He was a resident of Portola Valley at the time of his death.

Dr. Cathcart, although trained as an orthopedic surgeon, is best known for his accomplishments in orthomolecular medicine. Nobel Prize laureate Linus Pauling coined the term "orthomolecular" to describe nutrition and preventative medicine. Dr. Cathcart believed that high doses of vitamin C, acting as a "free radical scavenger," could decrease most of the morbidity and all of the mortality resulting from viral diseases ranging from the simple cold to complex hepatitis.

In the early 1970s, desperate to find a treatment for his chronic hay fever and stuffy nose, he discovered the merits of vitamin C after reading Pauling"s "Vitamin C and the Common Cold." Dr. Cathcart became fascinated with the idea that with the onset of a viral illness, the body can process increased amounts of vitamin C without causing its most common side effect, diarrhea. His research led him to develop the "Bowel Tolerance Theory of Vitamin C," a concept that the more potent the viral disease, the higher the dosage of vitamin C that can be utilized for treatment.

His research resulted in a 1981 paper on titrating vitamin C to bowel tolerance, which became a landmark paper in the field, according to Sandra Goodman, Ph.D.

Dr. Cathcart is survived by his children, Lisa, Holly and Rob; his stepchildren, Suzanne and Debra Schenk; his brother, Allen; and his pets, Happy and Sobby. He was preceded in death by his mother, Lellie Anne; his father, Robert Cathcart II; and his pets, Hope and Trouble.

A private burial was held at Alta Mesa Cemetery in Palo Alto and a Celebration of Life is planned for November. Anyone who wishes to be notified of the celebration can e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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