The prestigious Argentine scientist was interested in studies at the INTA Experimental Station. He followed the march and entered the Faculty of Agronomy -as it was called then- headed by the engineer Enrique M. Gil. “Retired, simple” was defined by Buenos Aires journalism when in October 1970 the great news of worldwide reach was known: from Sweden they awarded him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was 64 years old.
Getting to Balcarce for Dr. Luis Federico Leloir was surely walking on familiar ground. It is likely that there is more than one visit
walked a street already traveled, eaten in restaurants to which he returned, or bought in a store more than once. All this is possible, as well as the fact that very few have recognized it. “Retired, simple” was defined by Buenos Aires journalism when in October 1970 the great news of worldwide reach was known: from Sweden they awarded him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was 64 years old. “Very simple, he didn’t talk much” he described it to The vanguard the agronomist Norma González, a researcher who worked in the INTA Balcarce soil microbiology laboratory, which Leloir visited on more than one occasion. Those arrivals at the Experimental Station are also remembered by engineer Antonio Gualati, who in his office had the pleasure of chatting with the scientist. Gualati even visited the El Volcán ranch to speak with Leloir. Previously, the Nobel Prize winner visited INTA in 1973, after several years of his previous presence there. El Liberal published that on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 14, he was received by the director, engineer Domingo R. Pasquale, with whom he discussed the results of some studies. Walking, he later arrived at the Department of Animal Production, which he visited with the chief, Dr. Bernardo J. Carrillo, and the engineer, Luis Verde, accompanied by other technicians. He followed the march and entered the Faculty of Agronomy -as it was called then- headed by the engineer Enrique M. Gil. Finally, he went to Livestock Reserve 7. He also told a journalist from the newspaper that he had indeed been at the Station several years ago, where he found “enormous progress” on this new visit, highlighting the importance that INTA had at the service of the country. . He had just met the Faculty: “I get the best impression”.
Norma González recounts that the reasons for her later presences had to do with the soil group and that microbiology laboratory, whose head was the engineer Carlos Navarro. “They got along very well,” adds the professional graduate of our Faculty.
“He came to discuss research issues and, in the meetings, Navarro wanted us technicians to participate. His visits caused great expectation and in the room they were listened to with great attention and even a certain shyness, not because his presence intimidated, on the contrary, but for fear of saying some club ”. “We were very happy, when he came it was an event – he continues to remember – and I think I saw him three or four times”. One was in the Federal Capital when the engineer González was a student of a course that Leloir organized at the Biochemical Research Institute of the Campomar Foundation –he was its director since 1945-, in which presentations by foreign experts were heard.
The engineer says that the personnel of the Institute “adored him”, they called him “el dire” and she remembers that she saw that not very presentable chair in which the Nobel Prize winner sat to work, dressed in jeans -now they are jeans- and a gray duster. A magazine published that scene as a symbol of the simplicity of this Argentine who honored the country.
One more anecdote from Norma: “one winter morning I saw him walking led by a student’s arm.” Such was surely the respect, the affection, that she aroused in those who were going to learn between cylinders and test tubes.
The Liberal made contact with the great scientist again. It was on an occasional basis, as some things tend to happen in journalism. A photographer found him having lunch one Sunday with his wife in the heart of the city and on Monday Balcarce learned that he had been to Nonino, the very good restaurant that operated on Calle 17, between Nelly and 18.
When in ’70 he received the high world distinction, it was pointed out that he could have obtained it on two previous occasions, in 1956 and two years later. It was also said that his candidacy would have been proposed to the Swedish Academy by Dr. Bernardo A. Houssay, the first Argentine scientist who received the Nobel Prize in ’47 for his research in medicine. The two men of science knew each other well, and Houssay greatly appreciated his colleague’s advances.
In those daily days, radios and TV channels gave the news highlighting its simplicity. Our colleague Julio Osvaldo López, correspondent for the magazine Primera Plana in La Plata, wanted to know if he was not worried that the Prize would alter his way of life.
“Yes, I have many fears,” Leloir replied, and the journalist asked again: “What will you do to avoid it?” “Hide me,” said Leloir, with that intelligent look, or – as Norma González remembers it – “with those shrewd eyes.”
A definition of Leloir himself
“Life studying carbohydrates”
The Swedish Academy of Sciences highlighted their findings. The link with diabetes and other diseases.
On that morning in October 1970 when Dr. Luis Federico Leloir learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, journalism reported that it was the Swedish ambassador to Argentina who – via telephone – informed him of the decision of the Royal Academy of Chemistry. Sciences of your country. Colleagues from newspapers, magazines, radio and television immediately sought out that “patient and withdrawn” scientist, it was written.
Leloir, among a few other answers, told them that he had gone
“Life studying carbohydrates”. Communicating to the world the reasons for the distinction, the Academy noted that “his remarkable series of findings shed new light on the behavior of the organism and could lead to a more perfect understanding of diabetes and other internal diseases.” It was many years ago, today it is good that many know that reason that determined the Award.
On Thursday, December 10 of that year, King Gustavo Adolfo deposited in his hands the testimonies of the distinction in a ceremony held in the Hall of the Royal Academy of Sciences, in Stockholm. The Prize included the delivery of 80,000 dollars. Leloir donated the total of that sum to the Campomar Foundation Institute, where he had been doing research for 25 years and of which he was director for several more. He was the first Latin American to receive the Prize in Chemistry and the fifth overall. He was preceded by the Argentine Carlos Saavedra Lamas (Paz) in 1936; the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral in ’45 (Literature); Bernardo Houssay (Medicine) two years later; and the Guatemalan writer Miguel Angel Asturias (Literature) in 1967.
Two other Argentines with equal recognition are Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Peace) in 1980 and César Milstein (Medicine) in ’84.
His work had been awarded before that day in December ’70. Among other distinctions, five years before that world news, she received the Bunge y Born Award in our country. He was a doctor since 1932, an internal professional for four years at the Ramos Mejía Hospital, worked for a long time with Houssay, worked at the Chemistry Laboratory of the University of Cambridge and spent two years in the United States. From 1946 he directed the Institute that the textile industrialist Jaime Campomar had created. Luis Federico Leloir died in the Federal Capital in December 1987, at the age of 81.
Visits in the ’70s
Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize, at INTA
Considered “father of modern agriculture” and “the green revolution”
Norman E. Borlaug, an American scientist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 – the same year in which Leloir was distinguished – has also visited INTA Balcarce’s Agricultural Experimental Station. He did it on tour to select material. Agricultural engineer, geneticist and plant pathologist, he was the introducer of hybrid seeds in agricultural production in Pakistan and India.
That notably increased productivity in the 1960s. It has been written that it saved more than 1,000 million human lives. It has also been pointed out that there was a massive use of chemical products with environmental consequences.
Our country, Mexico -where dwarf varieties were developed- Spain, Tunisia and China are indicated as beneficiaries of this “revolution”.
Borlaug also collaborated with the creation of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
His tours of our country began in Paraná, then he went to Marcos Juárez and Pergamino, followed by Bordenave, came to INTA Balcarce and ended in Tres Arroyos, technicians who accompanied him have said.
He died in September 2009, at the age of 95.
We want to give thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content
From the LV archive: Leloir: the Nobel Prize in Balcarce | Vanguard Newspaper