Leon E. Rosenberg, geneticist who wrote about his depression, dies at 89

After working as a peddler for a while, Abraham made enough money to open his own general store. He quickly learned English and even perfected a rural Wisconsin accent that helped him relate to his clients. Celia, a housewife, retained her heavy Yiddish accent.

A child’s accident at a mill on Celia’s family farm had mutilated her left hand, rendering all but her thumb and forefinger useless. “Sometime around the age of 5,” wrote Dr. Rosenberg in his memoirs, “As I held her left hand in mine, I told her I was planning to be a doctor so I could fix her hand.”

Leon was a model student: he was a high school senior and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1954 and receiving his medical degree in 1957. He did an internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital before transferring to the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow in 1959.

His first marriage to Elaine Lewis ended in divorce. Along with his wife, he is survived by his brother Irwin, former Dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University; his sons Robert Rosenberg and David Korish; his daughters Diana Clark and Alexa Rosenberg; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

During his time at Yale, Dr. Rosenberg continued the research on hereditary metabolic disorders, despite skepticism from colleagues about the actual basis of such work. “Don’t be silly,” he recalled a Yale nephrologist telling him. “There is no such thing.”

dr Rosenberg proved him wrong. He filled lectures with case studies of children – Steven, of course, followed by Dana, Lorraine, Robby, and others – presenting inexplicable disorders that he repeatedly showed were caused by their bodies’ inability to metabolize various acids and who did so often do could easily be dealt with.

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