Max Perutz, born this date in 1914, received the 1962 Nobel Prize for his studies of the structure of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues via blood cells.
Max Ferdinand Perutz was born in Vienna on May 19th, 1914. Both his parents, Hugo Perutz and Dely Goldschmidt, came from families of textile manufacturers who had made their fortune in the 19th century by the introduction of mechanical spinning and weaving into the Austrian monarchy. A good schoolmaster awakened his interest in chemistry, and he had no difficulty in persuading his parents to let him study the subject of his choice.
The scientific work of Perutz on the structure of hemoglobin started as a result of a conversation with F. Haurowitz in Prague, in September 1937. G.S. Adair made him the first crystals of horse hemoglobin, and Bernal and I. Fankuchen showed him how to take X-ray pictures and how to interpret them. Early in 1938, Bernal, Fankuchen, and Perutz [Nature, 141 (1938) 523] published a joint paper on X-ray diffraction from crystals of haemoglobin and chymotrypsin. The chymotrypsin crystals were twinned and therefore difficult to work with, and so Perutz continued with hemoglobin. D. Keilin, then Professor of Biology and Parasitology at Cambridge, soon became interested in the work and provided Perutz and his colleagues with the biochemical laboratory facilities which they lacked at the Cavendish. Thus from 1938 until the early fifties the protein chemistry was done at Keilin’s Molteno Institute and the X-ray work at the Cavendish, with Perutz busily bridging the gap between biology and physics on his bicycle. The rest of the story is well-known and forms the subject of his Nobel discourse.
Visit the official web site of the Nobel Foundation to read more about Max Perutz.
Excerpted with permission, www.nobelprize.org