Upon his return from Bangkok, he worked on the coupling of coronary blood flow rate to cardiac metabolism, emphasizing the role of adenosine generated by heart muscle cells. Because the adenosine analogs necessary to support his research were either unknown or not commercially available, he learned enough organic chemistry to synthesize the compounds himself. Over the ensuing years it became clear that coronary flow control owed to the concerted actions of many factors in addition to adenosine. However, many drug actions involved adenosine receptors. And so he soon was working on those pharmaceutical actions. That work, which lasted for over twenty years, resulted in 18 patents.
Olsson was a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and also of the American College of Cardiology. A fellowship in the British Royal Society of Chemistry recognized his work in Chemistry. Membership in scientific organizations included the American Heart Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi and Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.
When offered advancement into senior administrative post, Olsson opted instead to stay in research, and so left the Army at the rank of Colonel to accept an appointment as Wright Professor of Cardiovascular Research at the University of South Florida. That professorship was the first permanently established chair in the Florida University System. In addition to his research, Olsson became an attending Physician at the James Haley Veterans Hospital, responsible for teaching students and house staff as well as for patient care. His laboratories served to train USF undergraduates; twenty-five of these students went on to medical school. In addition, his laboratory provided 1-2 years of research training for six university cardiologists from Japan, as well as shorter training for workers from other US universities, The Netherlands, Hungary, and Australia.
Olsson’s public service included research reviews as a member of NIH study sections, one of which he chaired, as well as reviewing manuscripts for journals. He served two terms on the editorial board of Circulation Research and as the associate editor of the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology. Over his last ten years at USF he reviewed 50 or more articles per year for journals concerning experimental cardiology, pharmacology or medicinal chemistry, the last of those reviews being at the age of 79.
His work on the medicinal chemistry of adenosine receptors brought an invitation to work as a visiting scientist in the Institut fur Nuklearchemie, Research Center Julich, Germany. That project to develop radioactively labeled tracers extended over a ten year period, and resulted in a tracer that successfully imaged, by positron emission tomography (PET), one of the four kinds of adenosine receptors in the human brain. He also worked for a year as a visiting professor in the Department of Chemistry, University of Virginia, at the Medical Research Council Vascular Biology Unit, London, and the Department of Chemistry, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.
His scientific work has resulted in over 100 research papers as well as review articles and book chapters. He has one non-scientific publication, the first English translation of the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Hindu Ramayana.
Dr. Olsson was President of the Florida Affliate of the American Heart Association and was a member of the St. John Episcopal Church, where he served as Senori Warden.
Dr. Olsson is survived by his wife Sally, three children of his first marriage, Andrea, Charles, and William, and by three stepchildren of his second marriage, Douglas, Mary and Anne. There are nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
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