Giulio Leonardo Cantoni, 89, who was interned as an enemy alien during World War II and became director of the National Institutes of Health's biochemistry laboratory, died of congestive heart failure July 27 at his home in Chevy Chase, Md.
Cantoni, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, established the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Cellular Pharmacology -- now the Laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry at the National Institute of Mental Health -- in 1954. He directed it until 1994.
Through an online publisher, Cantoni self-published "From Milan to New York By Way of Hell: Fascism and the Odyssey of a Young Italian Jew" (2000), drawn from his experiences as a young man.
In that book, he described his education at the University of Milan. Just as he earned his medical degree in 1938, the fascists instituted anti-Semitic laws. Cantoni, his mother and his sister fled to England, en route to the United States.
The family was in line for a berth on the ship Britannic on June 11, 1940, the day after Italy declared war on England. Cantoni was pulled from the boarding line by British police and interned as an enemy alien.
After months in a tent camp in England, he was transferred with others to a camp in Canada, where his status was changed to prisoner of war.
Months later, after protests about the imprisonment of scientists and Jewish refugees, Cantoni was allowed to go to Havana. From there, his long-expired visa to the United States was renewed. He arrived in New York in 1941.