Today marks the exact 35th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest Argentines of all time. On a day like today, Dr. Luis Federico Leloir was leaving for eternity. I always like to remember him because I dream that he will continue to illuminate us to follow the best path for Argentina.
Far away from the corruption that poisons us. Very far from the authoritarianism that suffocates us, This compatriot of the soul, Luis Federico Leloir reconciles us with the pride of being Argentine. It is the best mirror in which we should look at ourselves as a society. To confirm that all is not lost.
Dr. Luis Federico Leloir received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and we are talking about a man of integrity, who is much more than someone honest. Leloir was completely upright. With people like him and the memory of him, we should form a kind of national team that serves as an example for us to build a country that is more upright every day, with upright citizens who, as an inevitable consequence, produce upright governments.
With forgiveness for the abuse of puns, I tell you that being upright is being virtuous, decent and honest. But he is also someone who has irreproachable attitudes, an almost religious rectitude, an ethic that is proof of everything.
So were Dr. Arturo Illia, the beloved René Favaloro and, among others, Luis Federico Leloir.
In 1970, Leloir was in the Stockholm concert hall and the King of Sweden presented him with the most prestigious award in the world.
First of all, let me tell you an anecdote that I always tell about my admired Leloir. I think he paints it full length. He paints him as what he was: a man of integrity.
Listen please. He will lift your spirits in the face of so much rottenness that he stole public money with four hands and that on top of that persecutes honest leaders and journalists, and threatens the democratic system.
Listen, what happened to this patriot that I hope would serve as a mold for us to manufacture the new generations.
One day, a very dignified lady, a doctor with an excessively upturned nose, entered the laboratory and saw a man in a gray smock stretched out on the floor, painting some wood. She thought he was dealing with an orderly and asked him with a certain arrogant air that he please tell Dr. Leloir that the doctor so-and-so had arrived.
– Nice to meet you, doctor. I am Leloir, delighted. What can I do for you?, she asked him as that man in a gray coat stood up, with clean hands, a supportive heart and a privileged brain.
Leloir’s generosity and selflessness was so great that for a long time after his death, at the Institute that bears his name, they continued to discover scholarships or subscriptions to scientific journals that he had paid out of pocket without telling anyone.
Leloir donated their salaries and all their prizes. He distributed the Nobel Prize, he shared it like bread with his companions. Half to continue researching at the institute and the rest among his collaborators. He never sought fortune or easy glory. He was an example of self-improvement and sacrifice, of the search for excellence. He was never interested in being a figuretti or showing off anything. He was a kind of high priest of science and ethics, but he had the ability to communicate with people and a wonderful sense of humor. He understood science as a very valuable instrument for transformation and social growth. Not as a luxury item or as a frivolous medal to hang on the chest.
Leloir was born French but grew up and lived in Argentina. He was born in Paris by chance. His parents had traveled to the city of light to give birth because his mother had to undergo a complex surgical intervention. Will this have marked him to become a doctor later? He was the youngest of the nine siblings and he was already excelling in the state primary school and that is why in a couple of years he did what the others took twice as long. He was a Nobel disciple of another Nobel. From Bernardo Houssay at the Institute of Physiology of the Faculty of Medicine that he directed. As a researcher he perfected himself in England and the United States and in 1947, he began working at the Institute of Biochemical Research of the Campomar Foundation where he was later appointed director.
Today I could say that the newspaper was not talking about you, because there is hardly a line anywhere. He was the third Argentine to be honored with the Nobel. His discovery of nucleotides, sugars and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates led him to that world summit. Just today we are on the subject of frontal labeling and healthy eating.
I will try to be didactic and explain it in the simplest way possible. He worked on the internal process by which the liver receives glucose and returns glycogen, called polysaccharide biosynthesis. The following year he was appointed honorary president of the Conicet (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research). Leloir always escaped the notoriety of lectures and speeches. He had the same humility as his friend René Favaloro, with whom he worked for years with great affinity.
Leloir was fierce with his irony. Several times when it came time to give thanks for a distinction out of the thousands he received, he would say: “I wish I could get a good laboratory instead of so many acts and honors”. Once in front of a cloud of journalists who were harassing him for a statement, he stopped them dead and said:
– It’s okay… I’m going to talk. But can I ask first? Yes? When do you think I will recover the tranquility and peace I need to work?
If you used to enjoy chatting with your coworkers at the time of the cooked mate. To save, she brought jars from home in large baskets. He was funny and unusual in the neatness of the laboratory, seeing those coffee or mayonnaise jars of all sizes and colors, recycled as test tubes and other containers. The foreign scientists were astonished when they saw that a widely used solvent was stored in a perfume bottle with the original paper label and everything that said: “Lotus Flower”.
On one of the walls, Leloir had a poster that defined everything: “There are no exhausted problems. There are only men exhausted by problems. Ease was one of Leloir’s enemies. Nothing important is achieved without effort and sacrifice. Blood, sweat and tears for the great national achievements.
Don Luis Federico Leloir or Dr. Leloir is someone that we Argentines always have to remember. Especially in these times of anger where we doubt our integrity and capacity and where excellence and merit are fought from the government.
I think he is someone to revere.
To kneel at the altar of knowledge and ethics. Recover your memory and put it in the desks of the boys and students of all races. It is a humble idea. I think it can serve as an encouragement to all of us. To be upright Argentines like him. Only with these foundations will we be able to build the country of our dreams for our children. A country where there are fewer and fewer immorals like there are plenty in this government and more and more patriots like Luis Federico Leloir. It doesn’t seem so complicated. It should be our collective epic.
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Argentina needs many Leloir