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Leslie Lessinger

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 17, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 20

Leslie Lessinger, 65, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Barnard College, in New York City, died on March 13, 2009, of pancreatic cancer.

Born in Brooklyn, Lessinger attended Harvard University, receiving a B.A. in physics and chemistry in 1964 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1972.

Lessinger then spent 18 months on a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre of Advanced Study in Physics at the University of Madras, in India, where he began studies on direct methods in crystallography. He also spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of York, in England, working with Michael Woolfson and Peter Main. There, he focused on the crystallographic structure-solving program Multan. Then, during a year at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Lessinger solved the crystal structures of the drug colchicine and two of its analogs.

Lessinger joined Barnard as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1977 and was promoted to full professor in 1989. As the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Chemistry, he served as chemistry department chair.

Lessinger’s research at Barnard involved work on the crystal structures of inclusion compounds and hydrates of the bile acids and of neurotoxic curare alkaloids. On a sabbatical leave at Fox Chase Cancer Institute, he determined the structure of the DNA-binding drug actinomycin D. He was a member of ACS, which he joined in 1978.

Lessinger is survived by his wife of almost 45 years, Hanna.


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