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Luis Federico Leloir was born on September 6, 1906, at 81 Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris, France, a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe monument. At the age of 2, he joined his extended family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, setting up the circumstances for him to pursue his scientific career.

In his autobiographical article, "Far Away and Long Ago," Leloir noted, "My great-grandparents came to Argentina, some from France, others from Spain, and bought land when it was cheap but still unsafe from the incursions of the Indians. Later these lands produced the cereal and grains and the cattle that brought riches to the country and to the pioneers who worked on them. These circumstances allowed me to devote myself to research when it was very difficult or impossible to find a full-time position for research."

After serving as an assistant at the Institute of Physiology, University of Buenos Aires, from 1934 to 1935, Leloir worked a year at the biochemical laboratory at the University of Cambridge and in 1937 returned to the Institute of Physiology, where he undertook investigations of the oxidation of fatty acids. In 1947 he obtained financial support to set up the Institute for Biochemical Research, Buenos Aires, where he began research on the formation and breakdown of lactose, or milk sugar, in the body. That work ultimately led to his discovery of sugar nucleotides, which are key elements in the processes by which sugars stored in the body are converted into energy. He also investigated the formation and utilization of glycogen and discovered certain liver enzymes that are involved in its synthesis from glucose.

Leloir married Amelia Zuberbuhler in 1943 and together they had a daughter named Amelia. Despite his success in his field, he was self-deprecating about his shortcomings in other areas: "Among the negative abilities I might mention that my musical ear was very poor so that I could not become a composer or a musician," he wrote in "Far Away and Long Ago." "In most sports I was mediocre so that was another activity that did not attract me too much. My lack of oratorical ability closed the door to politics and law. I was a bad practicing physician because I was never sure of the diagnosis or of the treatment."

Leloir's work was influential in the world of science in the 20th century. He continued his research until his death on December 2, 1987, in Buenos Aires.

Information taken from and Encyclopedia Britannica entries


Groundbreaking scientific discoveries are made by people of all origins and/or walks of life. The world is better for these advancements so NKU celebrates diversity and the discoveries of these brave pioneers.                                                      

Artwork completed by Zachary Evans