Obituary: Kobayashi, world-class mycologist; 78

World-class mycologist George S. Kobayashi, Ph.D., professor emeritus of medicine, died Tuesday, April 19, 2005, from a terminal illness at St. Luke’s Hospital. He was 78.

Kobayashi was born in San Francisco, where his family owned and operated a store specializing in imported Japanese items.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kobayashi’s family was imprisoned in several U.S. concentration camps created for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

After graduation from high school in a Utah relocation camp, Kobayashi earned a bachelor’s degree in food chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1952 and went on to earn a doctorate in 1963 from Tulane University, where he became fascinated by the importance of pathogenic fungi in infections.

“George took enormous and justifiable pride in his depth of knowledge and expertise in mycology, including their use as food delicacies, food poisons as well as their industrial and medical significance,” said Russell Little Jr., M.D., WUSTL professor emeritus of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “He was indeed a world-class mycologist.”

In 1963, Kobayashi joined the School of Medicine faculty, where he was a professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology until he stepped down in 1999.

From 1973-1999, Kobayashi served as the associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory. He spent many years researching the control of cellular differentiation of the pathogenic fungus Histoplasma capsulatum.

“George was an eminent scientist, but he also was a wonderful storyteller,” said Gerald Medoff, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine and clinical director of the National Institute on Aging. “His humor and good will touched a huge number of people, and everyone around him recognized he was a special person.”

Until the time he was hospitalized, he continued to provide consultation services to the departments of Pathology and Internal Medicine, served on the School of Medicine Admissions Committee and worked daily in the Division of Infectious Disease.

In addition to publishing more than 175 research publications, he received more than 50 invitations for international visiting professorships and lectureships.

He served in various official capacities in the American Society for Microbiology and the Medical Mycology Society of Americas. He was a member of peer-review committees for the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Type Culture Collection.

Among his many honors and achievements, Kobayashi repeatedly won the School of Medicine’s Distinguished Service and Teaching Award.

He is survived by his wife, Mariko; daughters, Patricia and Kimi; sons, Dale and Scott; and his brother, Eizo.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Department of Infectious Disease, c/o Dan Korte, 660 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63117.