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In memoriam: Biochemist Henry Lardy

Henry A. Lardy, a distinguished professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, passed away on Aug. 4 at the age of 92.

Until months before his death, Lardy had been an active member of the university’s bioscience community for more than six decades. During that time, he trained 64 graduate students, mentored 110 postdoctoral fellows and published more than 500 papers, leaving behind a remarkable scientific legacy.

Lardy first joined UW-Madison as a graduate student, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees in biochemistry in 1941 and 1943. Early in his student years, he helped develop a method to store and preserve semen, a discovery that made artificial insemination practical and revolutionized livestock breeding and the treatment of infertility in humans.

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship, Lardy joined the biochemistry faculty in 1945. He set up his lab within the Institute for Enzyme Research, where he pursued an unusually wide variety of scientific interests. Over the years, Lardy studied how human cells make energy, the actions of toxic antibiotics and the pathways of cellular metabolism.

In 1958 — a mere 13 years into his faculty career — Lardy was accepted into the National Academy of Sciences. In 1981 he won the Wolf Prize for Agriculture from the Wolf Institute of Israel.

After retiring in 1988, Lardy didn’t slow down. He retooled his research program to focus on the human steroid DHEA and its derivatives, compounds that influence energy expenditure and cause weight loss. During the past two decades, he synthesized and tested more than 60 new steroids, including one that has shown promise as a treatment for prostate cancer.

“Lardy was an amazing man,” says biochemistry chair Betty Craig. “Into his 90s he was still so enthusiastic about science, still so sharp and still making real contributions.”

In addition to being respected for his work, Lardy was uniformly well liked and held in high esteem by his students, postdoctoral fellows and peers.

“There are two things about Hank. He was a scientific giant. There’s no question about that,” says Craig. “The other half is that he was also a wonderful, kind person.”

Lardy is survived by his wife, Annrita, and their four children.

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