Louis T. J. Delbaere (1943-2009)

[Louis Delbaere]

Louis T. J. Delbaere died suddenly on October 5 in Mississauga. He was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba. He received his BSc. and his PhD. in Chemistry from U. of Manitoba. Louis began working as a mineralogist crystallographer. During a post-doctoral fellowship in Oxford he characterized the covalent linkage between carbohydrates and proteins.

During a postdoctoral fellowship at the U. of Alberta, Louis made a major contribution to understanding the structural features of the human Lewis blood-group determinants. Later, Louis was a key figure in our successful determination of the first protein structure to be done in Canada, that of Streptomyces griseus protease B (SGPB). (Louis worked with Gary Brayer on the structure of α-lytic protease and with I-Nan Hsu on penicillopepsin). Louis had a passion for attending horse races that almost matched his passion for science. There were many gatherings at the Delbaere home celebrating varied occasions. Louis and Carol had a very closely-knit family and their friendship and happiness was shared with all.

Taken from ACA RefleXions, Winter 2009

Louis in the Biochemistry Dept., U. of Saskatchewan

In 1979, Louis moved to the Biochemistry Dept. of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon to start the first protein crystallography lab at the University. In 1988, Louis and I obtained a synchrotron data set at the EMBL outstation at DESY in Hamburg that gave a publishable structure. Louis grew the first Canadian crystal in space. In the mid 1990's, Saskatoon was selected as the site for a Canadian synchrotron. Louis organized mini-symposia on synchrotron applications around the country with members of the granting agencies and lobbied scientists in other areas that might use synchrotron radiation. Amazingly, it all came together and the Canadian Light Source (CLS) is now in Saskatoon. Louis was the project leader for the first protein crystallography beam-line at the CLS. He had been the Chair of the Canadian National Committee for the IUCr since 2005. He was President of the ACA in 2005. At the Osaka IUCr meeting in 2008, he successfully led the committee promoting Montreal as the site for the IUCr meeting in 2014 and he had recently been elected for a six-year term to the Executive Committee of the IUCr.

Wilson Quail

Louis as Supervisor and Mentor

Louis supervised or co-supervised seven PhD students, eight Masters, five postdoctoral fellows and research associates, a number of technicians and countless undergraduate honors projects and summer students. To his students, he was a mentor and a friend. Louis' style was one of quiet enthusiasm and encouragement. He was always available to discuss problems, directions and the latest crazy ideas that we'd come up with. He taught us to follow the data, be open to various viewpoints and methods, be patient and to 'trust the electron density … it doesn't lie'. He instilled a passion to make sure that the correctness of the analysis and the crystallography, rather than the flash of the story, was what was critically important. He taught us not to overinterpret the data, but to make sure it was correct, and move forward confidently in addressing our hypotheses. He encouraged everyone to be a member of the ACA, and to present posters at least once a year at a conference. These conferences were primarily the annual ACA meeting, but also included the IUCr congress, various Canadian meetings and the Erice meetings. Louis would make a point of introducing all his students to his colleagues during poster sessions and other formal and informal situations; we've all ended up with international networks of professional contacts and colleagues.

Gerald F. Audette

Louis and the IUCr

The participants in Osaka remember well Louis' happiness when Montreal was selected as the site of the 2014 IUCr meeting. It was clear that he looked forward to welcoming crystallographers from all over the world to Montreal. Another important election that took place at the Osaka Congress was the one that made Louis a member of the IUCr EC. After a few months he took on the important task of chairing the IUCr Sub-committee on the Union Calendar, which handles applications for support for international crystallographic meetings. Louis chaired the Committee efficiently and with great understanding for the importance of distributing the 150,000 US dollars in a way that promotes crystallography worldwide. Global awareness was more than a 'buzz word' to Louis, he was known and respected by crystallographers all over the world and was an excellent representative of the 'Americas'.

Sine Larsen