Dr. M. (Michelangelo) G.F. Fuortes, 59, chief of the laboratory of neurophysiology at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS), died of lung cancer Tuesday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington.

He had served in that position for the past eight years.

His research, centered on the electrical manifestations of nerve function and he was noted internationally for his research on the physiology of the visual process, particularly the retina of the eye.

Dr. Fuortes was born in Bologna, Italy. He earned his medical degree at the State University in Torino, Italy, in 1941. He later served as chief of the University Clinio of Nervous and Mental Diseases.

During his internship in German-occupied Italy, Dr. Fuortes left training, stole a boat, sailed to Brindisi, Italy, and joined the Allied forces. He took part in combat and received a number of decorations.

In 1949, while a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at the Physiological Laboratory at Cambridge University, he met Alan L. Hodgkin and Andrew Fielding Huxley, who later won the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology. As a result of that relationship, he decided to make the research on the nervous system his life's work.

Dr. Fuortes was with the State University Medical Center at Brooklyn, N.Y., and Walter Reed Medical Center here from 1951 to 1956.

He then served as head of the section on ophthalmology physiology at NINCDS for 11 years before taking the position he held at time of his death.

This past year, he sailed his own boat to Pisa, Italy, to work with colleagues there.He returned here in April for treatment at the National Cancer Center.

He is survived by his wife, Yvonne, of the home in Bethesda; two sons, Gregory, of Beallsville, Md., and Laurence, of Illinois, and his father, Giulio C. Fuortes, and a brother, GianCarlo Fuortes, both of Italy.

The family suggests that expressions sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the M.G.F. Fuortes Memorial Fund in care of the NINCDS laboratory of neurophysiology.