Who was Luis Federico Leloir or how some men reach inaccessible heights

For Jose Narosky.

In November 1970, in the city of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, a ceremony was taking place that the world was watching closely. It was about the delivery of the Nobel Prizes, which mean much more than a diploma and an important check for each winner. And that the sum far exceeded 200 thousand dollars. I clarify that it is currently more than a million dollars.

The great expectation derived from the fact that it granted –and still grants- great international prestige. It is well known that the most outstanding figures in the world receive the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the progress of Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Economics, Medicine and World Peace.

There were six winners that day, in different categories. They were sitting on the stage. In the first row of the stalls, King Gustaf of Sweden was observed, who would be the one who would deliver the valuable prize. One of the six winners was a very thin man. His nationality? He was a naturalized Argentine, that is, he was naturalized by choice, which made him even more Argentine.

He was born in France, in the city of Paris. He was a Chemistry doctor. he was 63 years old. A very warm face framed her figure. His name: Luis Leloir. He had obtained the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in October 1970, which had been achieved many years before by the famous Madame Curie and which had also been received in medicine, 23 years before, by another Argentine, whom Leloir would not tire of repeating that he was his teacher: Bernardo Houssay. Later he would also win the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the Argentine Cesar Milstein.

Forced to speak, Leloir expressed: “I am a man of research, of the laboratory. I mean, I love solitude. And since I don’t feel it as such, I am never spiritually alone. Also, the more isolated I am, the better and more clearly I can see the world.”.

“Are you happy about this achievement?”, was questioned by a Swedish journalist. And Dr. Leloir replied: “My happiness does not derive from this distinction. But yes, the recognition of my discovery makes me happy, which will perhaps play a role in better understanding the human organism and will enable the cure of some diseases”.

I have read, dear readers, words like the functioning of carbohydrates, their metabolism, the isolation of enzymes, the creation of antibodies. I confess I did not understand. But the Swedish scientists who awarded Luis Leloir, this Argentine born in Paris, who had managed to advance humanity, did understand it very well.

And that Luis Leloir was born in France as Gardel, or Alfonsina Storni was born in Switzerland or in Belgium, Cortazar. Alfredo Lepera, in Brazil, none of them took Argentine identity. Because everyone chose to be Argentine.

One day December 2, 1987, Luis Leloir was sitting in an armchair in the living room of his apartment. He felt very sleepy. He narrowed his eyes and fell asleep serenely like many other nights in his long 81 years..

A while later, a myocardial infarction -he had suffered another 6 or 7 months before- transformed his dream into a definitive one. The public was shocked. Because the death of a great man is not an individual death.

And just as only a drop of poison is enough to kill a majestic condor, a simple failure of his worn-out heart led him to Dr. Luis Leloir. He was a sober, measured person, authentically modest, as was immediately evident from his gray overalls, his jeans, his loafers and his declared taste for cowboy movies.

He was a man who had a lot of energy to defend his truth and very little to defend his person.. And his modesty prompted me to write this aphorism: “Simplicity is not simplicity”.

For J.N.

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Who was Luis Federico Leloir or how some men reach inaccessible heights