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Accepting honours and awards


Winning the Nobel Prize
Aaron Klug Scientist
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[Q] Did getting the Nobel Prize affect your life considerably?

Oh, yes, I got invited to things. I got invited to attend meetings and began to open buildings, but not as many as when I was later President of the Royal Society, but I think... I think it went on because at the time I got the Nobel Prize, I was already thinking of what to do next after chromatin and I had already started on the 5SRNA and TF3A system, and I was very much absorbed by that. So I guess it was... and in anyway in Cambridge, they don't make too much fuss about a Nobel Prize, not like Italy where you become a bit of a film star, and I think it's quite a good thing. It wasn't all that novel. I mean, people were quite pleased, because there had been a 20-year gap from the Nobel Prizes Perutz and Kendrew, Crick and Watson, but of course in the meantime, that's in... if you call it structural biology, but of course Fred Sanger – had got a Nobel Prize, his second Nobel Prize in 1980. The mystery was, why did I get a Nobel Prize and César Milstein not, because he was hanging around on the list. I think mine came as a bit of a surprise to a number of people, because the kind of work we were doing wasn't in those days, it wasn't even called structural molecular biology.

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: John Kendrew, Max Perutz, Francis Crick, James Watson, Fred Sanger, César Milstein

Duration: 1 minute, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008