Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug

Sir Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug in 1979
Born (1926-08-11) 11 August 1926
Zel’va, Białystok Voivodeship (1919–39), Republic of Poland
Nationality British
Fields Biophysics, chemistry
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Thesis The kinetics of phase changes in solids (1953)
Doctoral advisor Douglas Hartree[1]
Known for crystallographic electron microscopy[2]
Notable awards Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (1981)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1982)
Copley Medal (1985)
Spouse Liebe Bobrow (2 children)

Sir Aaron Klug, OM, FRS (born 11 August 1926) is a Lithuanian-born[3] 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.[4][5][6]


  • Biography 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4


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

Klug was born in Zel’va, Białystok Voivodeship (1919–39) to Jewish parents Lazar, a cattleman, and Bella (née Silin) Klug with whom he moved to South Africa at the age of two.[7] He later graduated with a degree in science at the University of the Witwatersrand and studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before he was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851,[8] which enabled him to move to England, completing his doctorate at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1953.

He 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[9] of the tobacco mosaic virus. In 1962 he moved to the newly built MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology 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. [10]

He 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.[3] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1969 and served as President from 1995–2000. He was appointed OM in 1995 – as is customary for Presidents of the Royal Society. He is also a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute.

In 2005 he was awarded South Africa's Order of Mapungubwe (gold) for exceptional achievements in medical science.[11]

He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[12]

Though Klug had faced discrimination in South Africa, he remained religious and according to Sydney Brenner, he's become more religious in his older age.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Aaron Klug at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Shafrir, E. (1994). "Aaron Klug--a pioneer of crystallographic electron microscopy". Israel journal of medical sciences 30 (9): 734.  
  3. ^ a b "Aaron Klug (1926–)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 7 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Nobel Foundation (18 October 1982). "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1982" (Press release). The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 September 2007. 
  5. ^ 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.  
  6. ^ Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (1994). "Sir Aaron Klug--Nobel Prize winner for chemistry". Mayo Clinic proceedings. Mayo Clinic 69 (6): 556.  
  7. ^ "BBC – Desert Island Discs – Castaway : Sir Aaron Klug first broadcast Sunday 12 May 2002". 
  8. ^ 1851 Royal Commission Archives
  9. ^ Amos, L.; Finch, J. T. (2004). "Aaron Klug and the revolution in biomolecular structure determination". Trends in Cell Biology 14 (3): 148–152.  
  10. ^ http://www.pet.cam.ac.uk/welcome-peterhouse/eminent-petreans
  11. ^ "National Orders awards 27 September 2005". State of South Africa. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 13 September 2007. 
  12. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Hargittai, Istva'n & Magdolna. 2006. Candid Science VI: More Conversations with Famous Scientists. Imperial College Press, p. 33

Further reading

  • Finch, John (2008). A Nobel Fellow On Every Floor. Medical Research Council. this book is all about the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge.  
  • Aaron Klug tells his life story at Web of Stories
  • Aaron Klug biography at the Nobel Foundation
  • Aaron Klug interviews with Harry Kroto
  • [2] Aaron Klug article by Bob Weintraub.
  • The Official Site of Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
  • Aaron Klug interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 11 December 2007 (film)
  • Listen to an oral history interview with Aaron Klug – a life story interview recorded for National Life Stories at the British Library
  • Aaron Klug archive collection - Churchill Archives Centre finding aid.