Aaron Klug

Sir Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug in 1979
Born (1926-08-11) 11 August 1926[1]
Želva, Lithuania
Nationality British
Alma mater
Thesis The kinetics of phase changes in solids (1953)
Doctoral advisor Douglas Hartree[2]
Known for Crystallographic electron microscopy[3]
Notable awards
Spouse Liebe Bobrow (m. 1948)[1]
Children Two[1]

Sir Aaron Klug OM PRS[4] (born 11 August 1926) is a Lithuanian-born British chemist and biophysicist, and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.[5][6][7][8][9][1][10]

Education and early life

From right to left: Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Aaron Klug and his wife (Liebe Bobrow), 1979

Klug was born in Želva to Jewish parents Lazar, a cattleman, and Bella (née Silin) Klug with whom he moved to South Africa at the age of two.[11][12] He was educated at Durban High School.[1] He later graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and studied for his Master of Science degree at the University of Cape Town[1] before he was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851,[13] which enabled him to move to England, completing his PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1953.

Career and research

Following his PhD, Klug moved to Birkbeck College in the University of London in late 1953, and started working with Rosalind Franklin in John Bernal's lab. This experience aroused a lifelong interest in the study of viruses, and during his time there he made discoveries in the structure[14] of the tobacco mosaic virus. In 1962 he moved to the newly built Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. Over the following decade Klug used methods from X-ray diffraction, microscopy and structural modelling to develop crystallographic electron microscopy in which a sequence of two-dimensional images of crystals taken from different angles are combined to produce three-dimensional images of the target. In 1962 Klug was offered a teaching Fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He went on teaching after his Nobel Prize because he found the courses interesting and was later made an Honorary Fellow at the College.[1][15]

He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[16]

He is also a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute.[17]

Awards and honours

Klug was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in 1981. Between 1986 and 1996 he was director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, and was knighted by Elizabeth II in 1988.[18] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1969[4] and served as President from 1995–2000. He was appointed Order of Merit in 1995 – as is customary for Presidents of the Royal Society. His certificate of election to the Royal Society reads:

Mathematical physicist and crystallographer distinguished for his contributions to molecular biology, especially the structure of viruses. Development of a theory of simultaneous temperature and phase changes in steels led him to apply related mathematical methods to the problem of diffusion and chemical reactions of gases in thin layers of haemoglobin solutions and in red blood cells. Then the late Rosalind Franklin introduced him to the x-ray study of tobacco mosaic virus to which he contributed by his application and further development of Cochran and Crick's theory of diffraction from helical chain molecules. Klug's most important work is concerned with the structure of spherical viruses. Together with D. Caspar he developed a general theory of spherical shells built up of a regular array of asymmetric particles. Klug and his collaborators verified the theory by x-ray and electron microscope studies, thereby revealing new and hitherto unsuspected features of virus structure.[19]

In 2005 he was awarded South Africa's Order of Mapungubwe (gold) for exceptional achievements in medical science.[20]

Personal life

Klug married Liebe Bobrow in 1948.[1] Though Klug had faced discrimination in South Africa, he remained religious and according to Sydney Brenner, he has become more religious in his older age.[21]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 KLUG, Sir Aaron. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  2. Aaron Klug at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. Shafrir, E. (1994). "Aaron Klug--a pioneer of crystallographic electron microscopy". Israel journal of medical sciences. 30 (9): 734. PMID 8088991.
  4. 1 2 3 "Sir Aaron Klug OM FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-07.
  5. Nobel Foundation (18 October 1982). "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1982" (Press release). The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
  6. Wakabayashi, K. (1983). "Accomplishment of Dr. Aaron Klug, winner of Nobel prize in chemistry, 1982". Tanpakushitsu kakusan koso. Protein, nucleic acid, enzyme. 28 (2): 156–157. PMID 6342048.
  7. Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (1994). "Sir Aaron Klug--Nobel Prize winner for chemistry". Mayo Clinic proceedings. Mayo Clinic. 69 (6): 556. doi:10.1016/S0025-6196(12)62247-2. PMID 8189761.
  8. Aaron Klug biography at the Nobel Foundation
  9. Finch, John (2008). A Nobel Fellow On Every Floor. Medical Research Council. ISBN 978-1-84046-940-0. this book is all about the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge.
  10. Aaron Klug archive collection - Churchill Archives Centre finding aid.
  11. "The Papers of Sir Aaron Klug". Churchill Archives Centre. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  12. "Desert Island Discs – Castaway : Sir Aaron Klug first broadcast 2002-05-12". BBC.
  13. 1851 Royal Commission Archives
  14. Amos, L.; Finch, J. T. (2004). "Aaron Klug and the revolution in biomolecular structure determination". Trends in Cell Biology. 14 (3): 148–152. doi:10.1016/j.tcb.2004.01.002. PMID 15003624.
  15. "Eminent Petreans". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 2015-06-26.
  16. "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Sciencecampaign.org.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  17. "Scripps Research Scientific Board Meets in Florida". Scripps Research Institute. 2004-01-26. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  18. "Aaron Klug (1926–)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  19. "Certificate of Election EC/1969/19: Aaron Klug". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-08.
  20. "National Orders awards 27 September 2005". State of South Africa. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
  21. Hargittai, Istva'n & Magdolna. 2006. Candid Science VI: More Conversations with Famous Scientists. Imperial College Press, p. 33

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