Hubert Lechevalier, professor emeritus at the Waksman Institute, Rutgers University–New Brunswick, passed away on October 28, 2015, at his Morrisville, Vermont, home, where he lived in retirement since 1991. He was 89.
Lechevalier was best known for his discovery with Selman Waksman of neomycin, an aminoglycoside antibiotic found in many topical medications such as creams, ointments, and eyedrops.
Born in France, Lechevalier immigrated to Canada when he was young. His interest in antibiotics started early. After earning a master’s degree from Laval University in 1948 for studies of antibiotics in the treatment of Dutch elm disease, he became a doctoral student of Waksman and received a Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1951.
During his graduate work, he worked on the discovery of neomycin and candicidin, an antifungal compound. Neomycin contributed substantially to the Waksman Institute’s growth in its early years. Still used today in topical applications, it also became widely used in combination with the gene for aminoglycoside phosphotransferase as a selectable marker in DNA transformation.
In addition to his work on antibiotics, Lechevalier and co-workers also explored using microbes to remove heavy metals from wastewaters and isolated restriction endonucleases from micromonospora.
Lechevalier received numerous awards, notably the Lindback Award for distinguished research in 1976. With his wife, Mary, also an accomplished microbiologist who worked also at the institute, he received the Charles Thom Award from the Society for Industrial Microbiology in 1982.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Paul and Marc, and two grandchildren.