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Chester J. Cavallito

by Susan J. Ainsworth
June 7, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 23

Chester J. Cavallito, 94, who first isolated allicin, the active agent in garlic, died on March 28 at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Born in Perth Amboy, N.J., Cavallito earned a B.S. in chemistry from Rutgers University in 1936 and a Ph.D. in organic and physiological chemistry from Ohio State University in 1940.

Cavallito was a research group leader at Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute in Rensselaer, N.Y., from 1942 to 1950 when he isolated, characterized, and synthesized the organic compound allicin from garlic. He also identified allicin’s antibacterial properties.

In 1952, Cavallito moved to Neisler Laboratories to serve as its vice president and director of research. Then in 1966, he accepted a position as professor and chairman of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill.

Four years later, he became executive vice president of scientific affairs in the Ayerst division of American Home Products, remaining in that role until he retired in 1978.

Cavallito then served as an adjunct professor in the UNC School of Pharmacy and as a consultant to various nonprofit organizations until 1990.

Credited with more than 120 publications and 35 U.S. patents, Cavallito was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Society for Microbiology, and the American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1940, and he served as chair of the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry in 1959.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Lucy; daughters, Linda Shea and Sandra Mays; son, John; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.



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