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Mark Basik

Jerome Lejeune at McGill

Students starting their university year at McGill University in Montreal were greeted with an unusual 4-day exhibit at the Redpath and Leacock Halls this early September. At the same time as open pub night raged loudly in lower campus, a group of students belonging to the Communion and Liberation Catholic movement were presenting an exhibit about the life of Jerome Lejeune, the legendary French geneticist who discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome as trisomy 21, and then went on to defend the life of unborn Down’s syndrome children in France and throughout the world. The exhibit is an English replica of an exhibit in Italian that was visited by about 20,000 people at last year’s Rimini Meeting in Italy. Entitled “Genetics and Human Nature in the Gaze of Jerome Lejeune,” it Professor Lejeune’s seminal discovery of the extra chromosome 21 in cells from Down’s syndrome children, the significance of this discovery as the door to the new field of cytogenetics, and his relentless pursuit of a cure for this disease against all odds. It also recounts how he became an advocate for Down’s children, including unborn children, when a Down’s child pleaded with him to defend them as the movement to legalize abortion was gathering steam in France. As he said so eloquently, “If these individuals could be eliminated early, the savings [to society and their families] would be enormous! But we can assign a value to this price: it is exactly that which a society has to pay to remain fully human.” As a result, however, he paid the price of ostracism by scientists and intellectuals (he lost his well-deserved Nobel Prize), as well as loss of his research funds. Professor Lejeune’s love for Down’s syndrome patients drove his determination to find a cure for themThis love, as well… Read More