Chemistry and Biochemistry

Leo Preston Vernon, Professor Emeritus, Passes Away at Age 84

Posted: Jun 29, 2010

Leo Vernon passed away on Tuesday morning June 8 in his home surrounded by his wife and children. He was 84 years old. Leo was born on October 10, 1925, in Roosevelt, Utah, to William Morley and Roseltha Bingham Vernon. He was the fourth of five children.

Academically Leo became interested in chemistry, and at BYU he studied chemistry until 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army and was trained as an X-Ray technician. In 1946 Leo was released from military service and enrolled again at BYU where he graduated in 1948 with a degree in chemistry finishing second in his class. Before graduation he married his high school sweetheart Fern Trunkey in the Salt Lake Temple, being sealed by Elder Harold B. Lee. Then it was off to other universities for graduate and research work. The first stop was Ames, Iowa, where Leo earned a doctorate in biochemistry. Then to Madison, Wisconsin, for post doctoral research, and finally to St. Louis for photosynthesis research at Washington University. In 1954 Leo accepted an invitation to join the BYU Chemistry faculty and moved his family back to Utah.

When Dallin Oaks was released as President, Leo went back into the Chemistry Department and taught for five additional years. It was at this time that he formed the Leo Vernon Band playing both piano and trumpet. He also made somewhat of a career change moving away from photosynthesis to cancer research with emphasis on treatment of cancer with compounds isolated from plants. In this effort he was joined by Murray Rawson and Hartman Rector Jr. Although Leo retired from BYU in 1991, he continued cancer research until 2004 giving lectures in scientific meetings around the world. The results of his research in the fields of photosynthesis and cancer research have been published in more that 150 scientific articles. Leo was recently awarded a U.S. Patent relating to his cancer research.


For the full obituary published in the Daily Herald click here