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Jérôme Jean Louis Marie Lejeune (Montrouge, France; June 26, 1926-April 3, 1994) was a French Catholic pro-life paediatrician and geneticist, best known for his discovery of the link of diseases to chromosome abnormalities. He developed the karotype, and discovered the link between inadequate intake of Folic Acid by pregnant women and neural tube defects.

Lejeune had made his career specializing in the treatment of children with Down's syndrome, and attended a Copenhagen meeting of scientists where Albert Levan's discovery of the number of human chromosomes was discussed. Afterwards, it occurred to Marthe Gautier, a young doctor in the Raymond Turpin's laboratory, to check the number of chromosomes in Down's syndrome patients. After taking a skin biopsy from one of his patients, Gautier, using borrowed equipment discovered that children with Down's syndrome have an extra copy (called a trisomy) of a chromosome.[1] Lejeune discovered the fact that the extra copy was in the chromosome 21.[2] He spent the remainder of his life researching a cure for Down syndrome. He said, "it would take less effort to find a cure for Down syndrome than to send a man to the moon." He also diagnosed the first case of Cri du chat syndrome, or 5p deletion syndrome, in 1963.

He was a friend of Pope John Paul II. They had met hours before the assassination attempt on the Pope's life on May 13, 1981 when Lejeune was in Rome for a genetics meeting and the two were discussing ethics. Pope John Paul II appointed Dr Lejeune to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and created the Pontifical Academy for Life[1], making Dr. Lejeune president just prior to his death of cancer in Paris in 1994. He has been named "Servant of God" and his cause for sainthood is being postulated by the Abbey of Saint Wandrille in France.

His daughter Clara Lejeune-Gaymard is presently President of General-Electric (France). She is married to the former Minister of Finances Hervé Gaymard. Clara wrote biographical memoirs of her father, in the book, "Life is a Blessing" ISBN 0898708125. His daughter Anouk Lejeune Meyer, a professor of languages, married to Dr. Jean Marie Meyer, professor of philosophy, have 7 children. The couple have served two terms on the Pontifical Council of the Family.


  • Jérôme Lejeune: The Concentration Can: San Francisco: Ignatius Press: 1992: ISBN 0898703948
  • Robert Sassone, Jerome Lejeune and William Liley: The Tiniest Humans: Stafford: Virginia: American Life League: 1977: [2]

Jerome Lejeune was an person that we like to call a free spirt.


  1. ^ Gautier M (2009). "La découvreuse oubliée de la trisomie 21". La Recherche (434): 57–59.  
  2. ^ Lejeune J, Gautier M, Turpin R (1959). "Etude des chromosomes somatiques de neuf enfants mongoliens". Comptes Rendus Hebd Seances Acad Sci 248 (11): 1721–1722.  

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