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Community remembers medicinal chemist, professor emeritus Lester Mitscher

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — Lester Mitscher, professor emeritus known for his work in natural product chemistry, is being remembered for his role in shaping the reputation of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy.

The former chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and university distinguished professor died May 8 in Lawrence. He was 83. 

“We remember Lester Mitscher for helping lay the foundation for our nationally renowned School of Pharmacy,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “On behalf of the entire KU community, I express my condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and former students."

Mitscher specialized in the search for new antimicrobial agents and was a key player in the development of both tetracycline- and quinolone-based agents. A notable example of his work in this area was the isolation of novel antioxidants from green tea. The work attracted intense interest from the profession and the media.

“When you look at the history of the school, there are a few people who stand out in terms of the work they did and the influence they had on the school and the profession itself,” said Ken Audus, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

Mitscher joined the KU faculty in 1975. He served as chairman of the medicinal chemistry department for 16 years. In addition to numerous awards and honors throughout his career at KU, Mitscher co-authored or edited six books and was the senior author of nearly 250 scientific papers.

“Les was a gentleman scholar and leaves a remarkable legacy as a scientist and educator,” said Tom Prisinzano, Department of Medicinal Chemistry chair. “We will miss him dearly and are thankful for the countless contributions he made to the department, school and the profession.”

Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home in Lawrence, and services will be 3 p.m. Friday, May 15, at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence. 

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