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Max F. Perutz

Max F. PerutzAKA Max Ferdinand Perutz

Born: 19-May-1914
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: 6-Feb-2002
Location of death: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: X-Ray analysis of hemoglobin

Max F. Perutz studied under J. D. Bernal, and founded the world-famous Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology at Cambridge in 1947, where Francis Crick and James Watson met, and where Perutz and John C. Kendrew conducted their investigations of the protein hemoglobin. In 1959 Perutz showed that the hemoglobin molecule consists of four distinct polypeptide chains in a tetrameric structure, with four heme groups near the molecule’s surface. His work helped usher in a new era of molecular biology and medicine, including the modern understanding of the genetic basis of disease. Perutz and Kendrew shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

As a young man he came to Cambridge from his native Austria, but he could not obtain British citizenship before the Second World War, and he was deported as an undesirable alien in 1940. At the personal request of Lord Mountbatten, however, his naturalization was expedited, and he returned to Cambridge in 1941. During the war he worked on Project Habbakuk, a super-secret British effort to build aircraft carriers out of ice, and though the project failed he continued in related research and eventually published work on the mechanics of glacier ice flow.

Through all his adult life he followed an eccentric diet that included eating ample quantities of overripe, basically black bananas. His wife Gisela for decades managed a tea room frequented by top scientists and research staff at Cambridge.

Father: Hugo Perutz
Mother: Adele Goldschmidt ("Dely")
Wife: Gisela Peiser (m. 1942, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Vivien (art historian, b. 1944)
Son: Robin Perutz (professor of chemistry, b. 1949)

    High School: Theresian Academy, Vienna
    University: BS, University of Vienna (1937)
    University: PhD, Cambridge University (1940)
    Administrator: School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge University (1962-79)

    Rockefeller Foundation Research grant, 1939-45
    Imperial Chemical Industries Research fellowship, 1945-47
    UK Medical Research Council, 1947-79
    Royal Society 1954
    Royal Institution of Great Britain Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, 1954-68
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1962 (with John C. Kendrew)
    Commander of the British Empire 1962
    European Molecular Biology Organization Chair, 1963-69
    Royal Medal 1971
    Royal Institution of Great Britain Fullerian Professor of Physiology, 1973-79
    Order of the Companions of Honour 1975
    Copley Medal 1979
    Order of Merit 1989
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences
    Converted to Catholicism
    Deported from England to Canada, 1940
    Naturalized UK Citizen 1941
    Austrian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry

Author of books:
Is Science Necessary?: Essays on Science and Scientists (1989, essays)
I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998, essays)
Science Is Not A Quiet Life: Unravelling the Atomic Mechanism of Hemoglobin (1997, non-fiction)
What A Time I Am Having (2008, posthumous; selected letters)


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