Former scientist finds peace in writing poetry every day

  • Leonard

    Leonard "Barry" Barrington has written a poem a day for the last 30 years. The retired scientist has five self-published books. Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

Published: 7/15/2008 10:41 AM

He's written at least one poem every day for the last 30 years.

Oh, he might have missed a day here and there, but it's been his habit to pen at least eight to 12 lines every morning.

Leonard "Barry" Barrington says writing is his creative release. It relieved stress during his years as a scientist, researcher and college teacher. "It's important to me," he says. "I have to do it."

Poetry isn't what you'd expect to be flowing from the mind of a scientist. Scholarly articles about microorganisms, yes, but poetry?

The slow-speaking, soft-spoken, retired professor, dresses in a way you might imagine a retired professor to dress. Khaki pants, sport coat, muted colors, suede shoes. His aluminum cane is decorated with a paisley pattern.

He attends an Episcopal church, but the 84-year-old from Grayslake considers himself "more spiritual than Christian." His politics, "flaming liberal."

And his quiet manner belies his achievements.

He grew up "dirt poor" on a farm in Hutchinson, Kans. He lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He worked his way through DePaul University and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Chicago.

A researcher for Monsanto, Abbott Labs and Armour Foods, among others, Barrington has three patents for food safety products he created. He taught at Wichita State University and the University of Illinois. He was working on a vaccine for polio in the 1950s, until Jonas Salk beat him to it.

But as much as his left-brain produces equations, formulas and theories, his right-brain gushes sentiment, passion and feelings. He has five self-published books filled with poetry and prose.

Moved by the works of James Joyce and Madeleine L'Engle, Barrington says "bright and beautiful women" also inspire his writing; his wife, Sharyn, among them. Not to mention his cat, Fiona, who he calls "his muse."

And from a mind once consumed with enzymes and nucleic acids, we read this in his poem titled Manifesto.

"A women's quiet beauty

is the greatest work on earth

and when she lifts a child,

we see snatches of the rarest gems of life,

and what Paradise is worth.