Perutz, Max Ferdinand

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Perutz, Max Ferdinand,

1914–2002, British molecular biologist, b. Vienna. One of the pioneers in the field of molecular biologymolecular biology,
scientific study of the molecular basis of life processes, including cellular respiration, excretion, and reproduction. The term molecular biology was coined in 1938 by Warren Weaver, then director of the natural sciences program at the Rockefeller Foundation.
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, Perutz studied chemistry at the Univ. of Vienna (1932–36) and then at Cambridge (Ph.D. 1940), where he began a lifelong association with Cavendish Laboratory. There he studied hemoglobinhemoglobin
, respiratory protein found in the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of all vertebrates and some invertebrates. A hemoglobin molecule is composed of a protein group, known as globin, and four heme groups, each associated with an iron atom.
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, attempting to use X-ray crystallographyX-ray crystallography,
the study of crystal structures through X-ray diffraction techniques. When an X-ray beam bombards a crystalline lattice in a given orientation, the beam is scattered in a definite manner characterized by the atomic structure of the lattice.
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 to determine the protein's structure. In 1953 he finally developed a methodology for successfully interpreting the X-ray diffraction patterns of large molecules, and he fully decoded the structure of hemoglobin in 1959, permitting understanding of its ability to transport oxygen. For this work he was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with his colleague John KendrewKendrew, John Cowdery,
1917–97, British biochemist, grad. Cambridge (Ph.D. 1949). He was a fellow of Peterhouse College at Cambridge from 1947 to 1975 and was scientific adviser to the British ministry of defense from 1960 to 1964.
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, who had used Perutz's technique to reveal the structure of myoglobin. Founder (1962) of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Perutz also was its chairman until 1979. In the early decades of his career Perutz also studied glacier structure and flow.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Perutz, Max Ferdinand


Born May 19, 1914, in Vienna. British biochemist of Austrian descent specializing in molecular biology. Member of the Royal Society of London (1954).

Perutz studied at the University of Vienna from 1932 to 1936, after which he moved to Cambridge, Great Britain. He received the Ph.D. degree at Cambridge University in 1940. Perutz directed the unit for molecular biology of the Medical Research Council from 1947 to 1962, and since 1962 has headed the laboratory of molecular biology at Cambridge University. Perutz’ principal works deal with the structure of proteins, using X-ray diffraction analysis, a method that he perfected. He was the first to uncover the three-dimensional structure of the hemoglobin molecule.

Perutz received a Nobel Prize in 1962 with J. Kendrew. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Austrian Academy of Sciences since 1963, as well as a member of many scientific societies.


Proteins and Nucleic Acids. Amsterdam, 1962.
In Russian translation:
“Molekula gemoglobina.” In Molekuly i kletki. Moscow, 1966. Pages 7-29.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.