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Jérôme Jean Louis Marie Lejeune (Montrouge, France; June 13[1], 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 karyotype.

Lejeune had made his career specializing in the treatment of children with Trisomy 21, also called Down 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 syndrome patients. After taking a skin biopsy from one of his patients, Gautier, using borrowed equipment discovered that children with the disease have an extra copy (called a trisomy) of a chromosome. 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 Trisomy 21. He said, "it would take less effort to find a cure for the disease 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.

File:Jerome Lejeune - Paris, 1944.jpg

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).[citation needed] She is married to the former Minister of Finances Hervé Gaymard.[citation needed] Clara wrote biographical memoirs of her father, in the book, "Life is a Blessing" ISBN 978-0-935372-59-5. His daughter Anouk Lejeune Meyer, a professor of languages, married to Dr. Jean Marie Meyer, professor of philosophy, have 7 children.[citation needed] The couple have served two terms on the Pontifical Council of the Family.[citation needed]


  • Clara Lejeune-Gaymard: Life is a Blessing: A Biography of Jérôme Lejeune - Geneticist, Doctor, Father: Jerôme Lejeune Foundation, Paris, and The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Philadelphia: 2011: ISBN 978-0-935372-59-5
  • 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]


  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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