Aaron Klug on Taking Risks in Science
  Aaron Klug     Biography    
Recorded: 17 Jun 2005

Yes, I made mistakes. Some things I tried didn’t work out, of course. It’s quite usual.

You know what they say; a beautiful theory killed by a brute fact. It does happen. You have to be able to do it. You have to have some kind of—without thinking about it. Well, I’ve always done new things. You have to have some kind of confidence. There are safe subjects like x-ray crystallography of proteins, which is now an important subject. You know that eventually you will be able to solve it. You have to all sorts of tricks and cleverness to do it. But it’s known territory. It’s an application of known methods. You still have to be quite good to do it. But it’s unknown territory. When I worked on chromatin my colleague Roger Kornberg came to work with me. He said I would like to work with on a messy subject. Messy means that you didn’t know all the details. Biochemistry was incomplete. Then I said, I’ve got something for you: chromatin. So the basic chemistry—he worked out the chemistry of the histone optima, which enabled us to make the models in the end. It’s different when you are doing new work. When Sydney started nematode it was totally unknown territory. He had to do all the genetics. He had to learn how to breed the nematodes and all that.

Aaron Klug is chemist and biophysicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. After completing his BSc at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, he attended the University of Cape Town on scholarship where he received M.Sc. degree. In 1949 he moved to Cambridge in England, he studied molecular structure of steel and wrote a thesis on the changes that occur when molten steel solidifies, for which he earned Ph.D. in 1952.

In 1953 he obtained a fellowship to work at Birkbeck Collage in London, where he met Rosalind Franklin. They worked together to determine the structural nature of the tobacco mosaic virus. After Franklin's death in 1958 he continued his work on viruses together with Kenneth Holmes and John Finch. In 1962 he accepted a position at Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

His major contribution to scientific research was the development of crystallography electron microscopy for which he was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.

More Information: Wikipedia, Nobelprize.org