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

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

In a childhood accident at a mill on Celia’s family farm, her left hand was disfigured, rendering all but her thumb and forefinger useless. “Somewhere around the age of 5,” says the doctor. Rosenberg wrote in his memoirs: “Holding her left hand with both hands, I told her that I intended to become a doctor in order to heal her hand.”

Leon was a model student: he was a high school graduate and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1954 and receiving his MD in 1957. Health as a Research Fellow in 1959.

His first marriage to Elaine Lewis ended in divorce. Together with his wife, he was survived by his brother Irwin, former dean of Tufts University’s School of Diet and Policy; his sons Robert Rosenberg and David Korisch; his daughters Diana Clarke and Alexa Rosenberg; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

It was while studying at Yale University that Dr. Rosenberg led research into hereditary metabolic disorders, despite the skepticism of colleagues about the very basis of such work. “Don’t be silly,” he recalled being told by a Yale nephrologist. “That doesn’t happen.”

Dr. Rosenberg proved him wrong. He filled the lectures with examples from the lives of children—Stephen, of course, and then Dana, Lorraine, Robbie, and others—who had unexplained disorders, which, he repeatedly showed, were caused by the inability of their bodies to absorb various acids and which could often be easily treated.