Robert C. Patterson, 74, a retired professor in the anatomy department of the Georgetown University School of Medicine, died Thursday at his home in Chevy Chase. He suffered from emphysema.

While at the medical school from 1947 until retiring in 1964, he had specialized in histology, which is the study of the structure, composition and function of tissues.

Dr. Patterson was born in Clarksburg, W. Va. A graduate of West Virginia University, he later earned a master's degree and a doctorate there. He also had studied for two years at the University of Maryland Medical School.

He became a science teacher at Potomac State College in Keyser, W.Va., in 1934, then left there in 1940 to enter the Army. He served during World War II with training branches and the military police, reaching the rank of colonel.

After the war, Dr. Patterson spent a year at the University of Missouri Medical School before joining the Georgetown faculty.

Active in community affairs, particularly with the Bethesda Fire Board, he was its president from 1964 to 1968. He also was a former president of the Edgemoor Citizens Association and a member of the Edgemoor Club.

He is survived by his wife, the former Hazel Baskett, of the home; a son, Robert B., of Danbury, Conn., two daughters, Virginia P. Skinner of Atlanta, and Roberta P. Parker of Derwood, Md., and five grandchildren. CAPTION: Picture, ROBERT C. PATTERSON