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Climate change and the greenhouse effect


Fellowship of The Royal Society
Aaron Klug Scientist
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[Q] In 1995, you were elected the President of the Royal Society. Can you tell us how it worked? How it functioned? With relation to affecting Government policy or...

Or being taken no notice of? Which is the other part of the story. Well, my involvement with the Royal Society goes back quite a while. I was elected a Fellow in 1969, and of course I sat on various committees, on national committees, and on the selection committees, as they're called. Sectional committees, I should say, which are basically selection committees in different subjects. But in 1989 I was elected to Council. The Royal Society consists of the President and what are called Officers, the Biological Secretary, the Physical Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, and the Treasurer. These are the five Officers, and I was just elected an ordinary member of Council, of which there are 21, and you serve for either two years or one year, that's in the original Statutes of Charles II, so there have to be 21 at any one time. I was elected, and the way George Porter, who was then the President, decided who would stay on for the second year was simply to add up the number of meetings you had attended. If you... those who attended fewer meetings were thrown off Council and some people were glad to do it. The reason I say is '89 because in '89 the... but the Council makes the decisions and prepares... I found the work quite interesting but the major thing we were doing in 1989/1990 was... global warming.

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: The Royal Society, George Porter

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008