Until just a few months ago, Henry Lardy could still be found almost every day in his biochemistry lab on the UW-Madison campus, where for more than 60 years he sought solutions to vexing problems from AIDS to sudden infant death syndrome.
His work led to widespread acclaim — membership in the National Academy of Sciences, winner of the prestigious Wolf Foundation Award in Agriculture — and a long record of scientific insights.
"He made contributions to so many of the basic principles of biochemistry that are in textbooks today," said Dr. Michael MacDonald, director of the children's diabetes program at UW-Madison and a former student of Lardy's.
Lardy, 92, died Wednesday of prostate cancer, according to his family. At the time of his death, he was working on an anti-prostate cancer compound that he had begun researching before he was diagnosed with the disease himself, said his son, Mike Lardy of Montello.
"He never got to take it as a self-experiment, but he would have been just the type to do it," his son said.
A native of South Dakota, Henry Lardy arrived at UW-Madison in 1939 as a graduate student and left only for a two-year interlude as a chemistry fellow at the University of Toronto in the mid-1940s. He retired as a professor emeritus of biochemistry in 1988 but continued full-time lab work.
His contribution with the largest worldwide impact probably was his discovery of a mixture to preserve the vitality of sperm, MacDonald said. It made artificial insemination practical, revolutionizing livestock breeding and contributing to the treatment of infertility in humans, he said.
Outside the lab, Lardy was a passionate defender of evolution and an avid supporter of the Democratic Party. In 1954, he served as president of Citizens Against McCarthy, a group that opposed the Cold War tactics of Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis.
"He wasn't loud, but he'd be outspoken for what he believed in," said Hector DeLuca, a UW-Madison biochemistry professor.
Survivors include four children and Annrita Lardy, his wife of 67 years.