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Other interests: Egyptology and literature


The influence of my wife Liebe and my parents
Aaron Klug Scientist
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We married quite young, and she's been a very stabilising influence in my life, because I tend sometimes to follow things which are pretty pointless. I get diverted very easily, often by things non-scientific, and she... well, she's been the companion of my life, of the good and the bad, so I owe her a great debt. She's not a scientist at all, not in any way, although I once gave her a book on crystallography, on patterns, which she didn't read, but she did see that there were nice patterns you could see, trying to explain space groups and so on. But I gave up after a while, and she was also very helpful in, you know, the days when I was teaching at Peterhouse, running a group in the Lab, having two small children, and she was very, very tolerant. No, not overly tolerant, but reminding me of things.

[Q] Sufficiently?

Sufficiently... so I think that's my... my parents, of course. I think that must have influenced me in some way, and I also have them to thank that when I was... gave up doing medicine, they would have thought I was pretty young, and I was then just 16, and they might have intervened to say, 'This is a foolish step to do. If you want to do science, finish medicine first.' That's what a sensible parent would have said. But my father was rather tolerant. I think he had confidence in me. I'd had a very early start in school and life and things like that, I was quite young. So I think he really left me to it. He wasn't a scientist himself, but a businessman, rarely doing business, but... so I think... of course, I owe him a lot and my mother, well, my mother died when I was six years old. My father remarried, but my stepmother was also very, very good. So they were... they allowed me to follow my instincts which I think is terribly important.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He 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: wife, influence, marriage, tolerance

Duration: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008