Whatever else you talk about today, take a minute to remember a fellow named Christian de Duve.
Born in 1917 in the United Kingdom to Belgian parents who had fled the devastation of the Western Front during the First World War, de Duve spent his early life in the village of Thames Ditton near London. After the war, in 1920, he and his family returned to Belgium and the young Christian went to school in the Flemish city of Antwerp. He embarked upon his career as a researcher when he enrolled as a medical student at the francophone branch of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium (1934–1941). He could speak four languages, a skill that would later help save his life.
de Duve decided to specialize in endocrinology and joined the laboratory of the Belgian physiologist J. P. Bouckaert, where he started his research under the difficult circumstances of the Second World War when facilities and financial support for basic research were very limited. Drafted by the Belgian army, he served as a medical officer in France where he was taken prisoner of war by the Germans. Thanks to his excellent knowledge of German and Flemish, de Duve was able to outwit the enemy and escape back to Belgium, where he immediately returned to his research.
He studied insulin and glucose signaling, every time with someone who later won the Nobel Prize, before he won the Nobel himself for discovering the peroxisome. Like the best scientists do he went on contributing until his death this week at the age of 95. Safe travels to wherever such people go next.
I did not know of him before you posted this, but I am impressed – working on what he was passionate about even when he was in his mid-90s. I hope to have a quarter of the vitality he did if I ever make it to that age.
Wow. This truly is a full-service blog. Thanks for posting this.
S N Goenka passed his light on to the rest of us on Sunday night too.
When you compare the life of a person such as de Duve, who dedicated himself to making the world a better place, to the 80 teabagger turds in the U.S. House who appear dedicated to making the world a worse place, you must come to the conclusion that there is no God. For if there were a God such injustice would not be countenanced.
Rest in peace, Christian de Duve.
God created teabaggers to prove she doesn’t exist.
Either that or she just created assholes as a joke. Not that I think they are funny but from a different perspective….
I like to think that one of the first stops when people like de Duve enter afterlife is a great library where all the great questions of their previous lives are answered.
@greennotGreen: A wonderful thought. Thank you.
@greennotGreen: I hope that’ strut. I always get slightly wistful in libraries and bookstores, knowing that no matter how long I live, I’ll never read everything I want to. It would be nice if the Great Beyond was a library.
@greennotGreen: I prefer to think of it like a baseball game, where they join greats like Einstein and Leibniz in the stands to watch the next generation work it out.
It wouldn’t really surprise me if there aren’t any Christian de Duves in the millenial generation, the way science funding is going. It’s one thing when opportunities are growing in science, it’s another when they’re rapidly declining.
Higgs Boson's Mate
You might enjoy Jorge Luis Borges’ “A Library of Babel.”
This is the full short story. It’s in .pdf format and the .pdf is very well done.
@greennotGreen: That’s exactly wrong. If there is a God, and She allows me into heaven, I hope that I can spend forever
learningdiscovering new things. I don’t want it in front of me, I want to find it.
Edited because I didn’t think it conveyed what I wanted versus your statement.
ETA: Fully funded labs or Westlaw with no billing requirements or whatever.
I believe they go to Akron. Or Vancouver. Depends on the life they lived, I guess.
This is the complete life. As a multilinguist myself, that alone lets one engage a whole other cultural life but he went through multiple wars and an amazing scientific career. He is my ideal for sure. The existential polymath.
And contrast him to the slouching beasts in the Republican Party.
@JCJ: These were my thoughts as well. Thanks Tim.
@Felonius Monk: Christian de Duve must have also concluded that there is no god, as “He died at his chosen time on 4 May (Saturday) 2013 by self-induced euthanasia in the presence of all of his children” (Wikipedia).
Christians would damn him to eternal hellfire for not subjecting himself to a long torturous death in front of those who love him.
Awesome. Thx Tim F.
I thought you thought lowly of MD researchers, Tim F?