- Perutz, Max Ferdinand
died Feb. 6, 2002, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.Austrian-British biochemist.With John Cowdery Kendrew he founded the Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge. His discovery that hemoglobin's structure changes when it picks up or releases oxygen led to the full understanding of the molecular mechanism of respiratory oxygen transport by hemoglobin. For his X-ray diffraction analysis of hemoglobin's structure, Perutz and Kendrew shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Perutz also used crystallography to study the flow of glaciers.
* * *▪ 2003Austrian-born British biochemist (b. May 19, 1914, Vienna, Austria—d. Feb. 6, 2002, Cambridge, Eng.), shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with colleague John C. Kendrew and helped launch the field of molecular biology. With Kendrew, Perutz succeeded in determining the molecular structure of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Perutz studied at the University of Vienna and at the University of Cambridge, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1940. At Cambridge he took the first X-ray diffraction pictures of hemoglobin crystals. Although World War II interrupted his research, he later resumed work at Cambridge, and in 1947 he and Kendrew founded the university's Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology. Perutz served as director of the unit until 1962, when it became the MRC's Laboratory for Molecular Biology. He was chairman of that establishment—the world's leading laboratory of its kind—from 1962 until his retirement in 1979. Perutz's Nobel Prize-winning achievement was largely in showing that the hemoglobin molecule is composed of four separate polypeptide chains and that in oxygenated hemoglobin these four chains are rearranged, a discovery that led to the full determination of the molecular mechanism of oxygen transport and release by hemoglobin. In later years Perutz was a widely published writer on scientific and medical topics. Many of his articles and essays were collected in Is Science Necessary? Essays on Science and Scientists (1989) and I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists, and Humanity (1998).
* * *▪ British biochemistborn May 19, 1914, Vienna, Austriadied February 6, 2002, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, EnglandAustrian-born British biochemist, corecipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his X-ray diffraction analysis of the structure of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues via blood cells. He shared the award with British biochemist John C. Kendrew (Kendrew, Sir John Cowdery).Perutz was educated at the University of Vienna and at the University of Cambridge, where he received a Ph.D. in 1940. While at Cambridge he began research at the Cavendish Laboratory (1937), taking the first X-ray diffraction pictures of hemoglobin crystals and working with the most powerful tool for examining the structure of hemoglobin—X-ray crystallography.In 1947, along with Kendrew (Kendrew, Sir John Cowdery), Perutz founded the Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology at Cambridge. There the two men continued their investigation of hemoproteins, with Kendrew trying to determine the molecular structure of myoglobin (muscular hemoglobin) and Perutz concentrating on the hemoglobin molecule itself. By 1959 Perutz had shown that the hemoglobin molecule is composed of four separate polypeptide chains that form a tetrameric structure, with four heme groups near the molecule's surface. Perutz subsequently showed that in oxygenated hemoglobin the four chains are rearranged, a discovery that led to the full determination of the molecular mechanism of oxygen transport and release by hemoglobin. Perutz was director of the Unit for Molecular Biology from its inception until 1962. From 1962 until his retirement in 1979, he was chairman of the Medical Research Council molecular biology laboratory (at the School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge).Perutz also investigated the flow of glaciers (glacier), making a crystallographic study of the transformation of snow into glacial ice (1938). Measuring for the first time the velocity distribution of a glacier, he proved that the fastest flow occurs at the surface and the slowest near the bed of the glacier. Perutz wrote several books, including the essay collections Is Science Necessary? (1989) and I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998). He was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1963 and received the Order of Merit (Merit, Order of) in 1989.
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