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Aaron Klug Scientist
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vaneyck
Friday, 09 September 2011 11:48 PM
Aaron Klug is a scientist of great ability who tells his stories extremely well, though he assumes...
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Aaron Klug is a scientist of great ability who tells his stories extremely well, though he assumes knowledge on the part of his listeners that most of us,(I included), do not have. But this is not a flaw, in my eyes - I feel I have been given a whole new range of information to look into. I came to Web of Stories looking for the interviews with Sydney Brenner, just having re-read H.F. Judson's The Eighth Day of Creation. After listening to Brenner - I was not disappointed -I went to the Klug interviews, as he is also mentioned favorably in the book. I was even better pleased with Klug's stories, and am starting to listen to them a second time through. I highly recommend them to anyone who has even a passing interest in the progress of biological knowledge in the second half of the 20th century. You will meet a brilliant man who has had a very interesting career and who describes it very well.

I was born in Lithuania, one of the Baltic States, but my parents emigrated to South Africa when I was a [boy]... when I was... my father went ahead as was the custom in those days and the family followed; and, I was two years old so I remember nothing of this. I had an elder brother who was a couple of years older than me and he doesn't remember much either. But, we came to Durban where members of my mother's family had settled actually around about 1900, after the Boer War. And, so, my mother belonged to a family called the Gevissers who are quite well known in Durban, and so that's why we chose Durban. My father was trained as a saddler, he... he was actually apprenticed in those days so he knew a great deal about leather. And, he... his father had a farm... a farm is not the right word, they didn't farm but they... they fattened cattle - he was a cattle dealer. And, of course, they had horses and things and my father used to take the cattle long distances to market in the big cities. They would gather them from the small farmers and the small cattle holders. So... so when he came to Durban he worked for the family firm of Gevissers, because of his experience with leather he was involved in hides. They were involved in what were called primary products in those days; they owned wattle farms, which were used as mine props, making... making boxes. They also had leather and hides and so on; my father, because he knew about hides and skins was involved, he was really a hide merchant, that's what it came down to.

Born in Lithuania in 1926, Aaron Klug is a British chemist and biophysicist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: John Finch Ken Holmes

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

Tags: Lithuania, Baltic States, South Africa, Durban, Boer War

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008