Life is a Blessing

A Biography of Jerome Lejeune: Geneticist, Doctor, Father
Book cover: 'Life is a Blessing'
Clara Lejeune
Michael J. Miller
898 708 125
Ignatius Press
Sewn Softcover
Number of pages: 
160 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Written by his daughter, this book brings us a portrait of a great Christian, loving husband and father, and devoted son who was also one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.

Seeking to help his beloved patients, Lejeune succeeded in tracing the cause of Down syndrome to an extra 21st chromosome. He could have named the syndrome after himself, but with his characteristic humility, he named the condition "Trisomy-21". While his work did succeed in removing the stigma from Downs (it had previously been thought that maternal syphilis caused it), Lejeune was heartbroken to see his discovery turned into a weapon against the ones he loved so much.

Further discoveries in the field of genetic medicine followed, including Trisomy-13 and monosomy-9. But despite his pioneering work, which opened up the field of genetically-based diseases, he was never awarded a Nobel Prize, likely due to his unwelcome pro-life views. There was worse to come. Because of his defense of the innocent and defenseless, Lejeune found himself increasingly sidelined. Nevertheless, he continued to bear a hope-filled Christian witness, forgetful of self, a shining example to us all.

Toward the end of his life, Dr. Lejeune worked to found the Pontifical Academy for Life and was (very briefly) its first president. He died on Easter Sunday, a circumstance in which his friend Pope John Paul II found a particular significance.

A beautiful book about a great man.

Additional notes: 

Originally published in French by Criterion, Paris, 1997.

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