Aaron Klug Biography
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Sir Aaron Klug
Born in: Lithuania
Famous as: Chemist & Biophysicist
discoveries/inventions: Crystallographic Electron Microscopy
education: Peterhouse, Cambridge, University of Cape Town, Trinity College, Cambridge, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Cambridge
awards: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1982)
A Nobel laureate in Chemistry, Aaron Klug needs no introduction of any kind. He is the man behind the development of crystallographic electron microscopy. His technique of restructuring two dimensional image to three dimensional one has been applied in various arenas, the most prominent one being the CT scan. Born in Zel’va, Białystok Voivodeship, to Jewish parents, he moved to South Africa with his family when he was two. Interested in science from a young age, he went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of the Witwatersrand before completing his Master of Science degree at the University of Cape Town. Eventually he moved to England and earned his PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge. He began working with Rosalind Franklin in John Bernal's lab at the Birkbeck College in the University of London. This kindled in him a lifelong interest in viruses. Klug went on to study helical viruses to reveal how protein units are formed, investigated the polio virus with J. D. Bernal, and researched the structure and action of transfer DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). A much renowned chemist, he received several prestigious awards for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.
- Aaron Klug was born on 11 August 1926 in Zel’va, Białystok Voivodeship, Republic of Poland to Jewish parents Lazar and Bella. His father was a cattleman, trained as a saddler. He also used to write articles for newspapers. The family moved to South Africa when Aaron was a toddler.
- He attended Durban High School where he read a book called ‘Microbe Hunters’ by Paul de Kruif, which influenced his interest in microbiology. After school he joined the University of the Witwatersrand from where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He then studied for his Master of Science degree at the University of Cape Town.
- A brilliant student, he was awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. He moved to England on the basis of this scholarship and completed his PhD 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 where he worked with viruses. At the lab he made important discoveries in the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus.
- He developed his own techniques of crystallographic electron microscopy, whereby series of electron micrographs, taken of two-dimensional crystals from different angles, can be combined to produce three-dimensional images of particles.
- In 1958, Aaron Klug became director of the Virus Structure Research Group at Birkbeck. After serving there for four years he returned to Cambridge as a staff member of the Medical Research Council in 1962.
- He spent the next decade using methods from X-ray diffraction, microscopy and structural modeling 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.
- Later, he worked on exposing the structure of the DNA-protein complex, chromatin. In 1974, along with his collaborators, Klug became the first to collect crystals of a transfer RNA and determine its structure.
- Aaron Klug is best known for his work on Electron crystallography, a method to determine the arrangement of atoms in solids using a transmission electron microscope (TEM). He performed electron crystallographic studies on inorganic crystals using high-resolution electron microscopy (HREM) in 1978.
- In 1981, Klug was awarded with the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University.
- Klug was awarded with Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for his work in the field of crystallographic electron microscopy.
- From 1986 until 1996, he served as the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.
- In 1988, Klug was knighted by Elizabeth II.
- From 1995 until 2000, he was elected President of the Royal Society. Additionally, he was also a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute and of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.
- In 2005, he was honored with South Africa's Order of Mapungubwe (gold) for exceptional achievements in medical science.
- Aaron Klug tied the knot with Liebe Bobrow whom he met in Cape Town. A trained modern dancer, she went on to become a choreographer and coordinator for the Cambridge Contemporary Dance Group. Mrs Klug has also contributed to theatre. The couple has been blessed two sons, Adam and David, born in 1954 and 1963 respectively.
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