Charles Philippe Leblond

Charles Philippe Leblond, anatomist, cell biologist (born at Lille, France 5 Feb 1910; died at Montréal, 10 Apr 2007). Considered a pioneer in cell biology and the foundation not only for modern stem cell research, Leblond was among the first to use synthetic radioactive isotopes in the localization of labelled molecules within tissues. To achieve this he developed, in collaboration with Leonard Bélanger in 1946, the now universally used technique called radioautography. This consists of placing thin sections of tissues containing radioactive substances in contact with a photographic emulsion. The presence of developed black silver grains over cells or tissues, when examined with the microscope, reveals the source of radioactivity.

Leblond exploited this method to investigate dynamic processes taking place in the body, such as the renewal of tissue components or the elaboration of various substances by the cells. The high-resolution autoradiography procedure is used by molecular biologists to detect and study RNA molecules, genes, and DNA sequences. Leblond used this technology to develop procedures to explore stem cells, study protein synthesis and examine numerous cell components, functions and activities.

Leblond wrote more than 430 scientific articles. He began lecturing at McGill in 1941 and earned a full professorship of anatomy by 1948. He was chair of the Department of Anatomy from 1957-74.

He received many honours including membership in the Royal Society, London (1965) and in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1970), and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (1995). Leblond received honorary degrees from Acadia U (1972), McGill U (1982), U de Montréal (1985), York U (1986), and Sherbrooke U (1988). For his research he earned numerous prizes and several medals including the Flavelle Medal (1961) and the McLaughlin Medal (1983) from the Royal Society of Canada.

Leblond was named an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1977 and then was appointed as a Companion in1999. He became a Grand Officer of the National Order of Québec in 2001.