Max Perutz

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Max Ferdinand Perutz, FRS, OM, CBE (May 19, 1914, Vienna, Austria – February 6, 2002, Cambridge, United Kingdom) was an Austrian-born British molecular biologist, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew, for their studies of the structures of hemoglobin and globular proteins. He went on to win the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1971 and the Copley Medal in 1979. At Cambridge he founded and chaired (1962–79) The Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, fourteen of whose scientists have won Nobel Prizes. Perutz's contributions to molecular biology in Cambridge are documented in The History of the University of Cambridge: Volume 4 (1870 to 1990) published by the Cambridge University Press in 1992.


The scientist

In 1936, after completing his first university degree at the University of Vienna, Perutz became a research student at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, in a crystallography research group under the direction of J.D. Bernal. He completed his PhD. under William Lawrence Bragg. In Cambridge he started to work on haemoglobin, which was to occupy him for most of his professional career. As a research student Perutz became a member of Peterhouse, where he was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1962. He took a keen interest in the Junior Members, and was a regular and popular speaker at the Kelvin Club, the College's scientific society.

Perutz was exiled from Austria because of his Jewish heritage when Nazi Germany annexed that country prior to World War II. When the war did break out, he was rounded up along with other persons of German or Austrian backbround, and sent to Canada (on orders from Winston Churchill).[1] During the war he worked on Habakkuk, a secret project to build an ice platform in mid-Atlantic, which could be used to refuel aeroplanes. To that end he investigated the recently invented mixture of ice and woodpulp known as pykrete. He carried out early experiments on pykrete in a secret location underneath Smithfield Meat Market in the City of London. Perutz had been engaged on this project because he had worked on the changes in the arrangement of the crystals in the different layers of a glacier before the War. After the War he returned briefly to glaciology. He demonstrated how glaciers flow.[2][3][4][5][6]

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