john-kendrew

24 March 2014

Model Making

Balancing on this dense forest of poles are the beginnings to the first molecular model of a protein ever to be made. Representing single atoms, each little ball is located in exactly the right position. The man behind the model is John Cowdery Kendrew, who was born on this day in 1917. Together with biologist Max Perutz, he won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for finding out the structure of two proteins using a method called X-ray crystallography. Though it’s essentially a type of microscopy that zooms in incredibly far, it’s tricky to use. Rather than creating a magnified picture, it produces a dotted pattern that scientists need to decipher. And to generate a clear pattern, the protein molecules need to be in a perfect crystal formation. Kendrew and Perutz cleverly accomplished both, and thereby pioneered a new level of understanding into the biomolecules that run life.

Written by Emma Bornebroek

Image courtesy of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Any re-use of this image must be authorised by the LMB

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This is a preparatory drawing for the myoglobin painting for the December 1961 Scientific American article, “The Three Dimensional Structure of a Protein Molecule” by biochemist John Kendrew. The notations in the drawing are comments between Kendrew and Geis.
Geis asks: “Which of these two treatments ‘A’ or ‘B’ is preferable?” 
Kendrew writes: “Don’t forget the water molecule.”

via The Scientist