24 March 2014
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