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Geneticist Jean-Jacques Cassiman dies aged 79

One of Belgium’s best-known scientists Jean-Jacques Cassiman has died aged 79. Born in Brussels in 1943 he was educated at the Heilig-Hartcollege in Ganshoren before going on to study medical sciences at the Catholic University of Leuven. 

After his graduation in 1967 Jean-Jacques Cassiman spent five years researching human genetics at the prestigious Stanford University in the United States.

He returned to Leuven and beaome an associate professor at the university’s Department of Human Genetics in 1976. He assumed full professor status from 1981 and he was the Head of the Laboratory for Human Mutations and Polymorphisms at the Centre for Human Genetics that is affiliated with the University. In 1998 he became head of the whole centre.

Genetics and DNA

Jean-Jacques Cassiman carried out work in the fields of human genetics and DNA research. In 1998 he was awarded the Francqui chair at the Leuven University’s (KUL) Francophone counterpart UCL. 

In 1998 Professor Cassiman proved through DNA testing that Karl Wilhelm Naundorff was not a descendant of the Bourbons and certainly not of Louis XVII. In 2004 he proved that the heart that had been kept in Paris belonged to Louis XVII.

Also in 2004 Professor Cassiman was employed by the French authorities to use DNA testing to detect whether the remains said to be of Napoleon Bonaparte that are buried in Paris are in fact his. The testing proved this to be the case.

As well as being a scientist Jean-Jacques Cassiman was something of a talented singer. In the early 1960’s he sung in Trio Cassiman, a group he formed together with his brother Guido and sister Emily. His singing career came to an end when he went to America in 1967.

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