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Max Ferdinand Perutz ( 1914 - 2002 )  Category ( Chemists ) [suggest a correction]

Max Ferdinand Perutz, the Nobel Prize winning chemist, was born on May 19, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. His parents, Hugo Perutz and Dely Goldschmidt, inherited successful textile manufacturing businesses. Both families introduced mechanical weaving and spinning to the monarchy of Austria.

Perutz first attended the Theresianum grammar school. His parents then encouraged him to study law so that he could run the family business one day. However, he found a love for chemistry and his parents allowed him to study science instead.

In 1932, he attended Vienna University where he discovered an interest for organic chemistry. His parents assisted him financially to further his studies at Cambridge University. He studied in the Cavendish Laboratory with J.D. Bernal in 1936. He remained there for his entire career.

Not long after arriving at Cambridge, Perutz found himself with financial woes. His family’s business was expropriated by the Nazis after they invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he was appointed a research assistant to Sir Lawrence Bragg. He worked under this grant from 1939 to 1945.

In 1945, Perutz received an Imperial Chemical Industries Research Fellowship and in 1947, he became the head of the Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology. He held that position until 1962 when he became the Chairman of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

It was also in 1962 that Perutz received the Nobel Prize in chemistry along with John Kendrew. They got the prize for work with the hemoglobin protein. In 1938, Perutz and others published a paper in Nature on X-ray diffraction of crystals of chymotripsin and hemoglobin proteins. Scientists at the time were just beginning to use X-ray crystallography to elucidate the structure of large biomolecules.

Perutz supervised the research of James Watson and Francis Crick in the 1950s. Watson and Crick are famous for discovering the structure of DNA. They were able to do so because Perutz gave them X-ray diffraction pictures of DNA made by Rosalind Franklin. The pictures were taken without her permission and Perutz and others have been criticized for their actions in the affair.

For all of his life, Perutz was a keen outdoorsman, even sidelining his research into glacier crystal structure in order to spend more time mountaineering. In 1942, he married Gisela Peiser and they had two children, Vivien and Robin. Perutz died on February 6, 2002 in Cambridge, England.

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Title :Chemistry 1962
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