Aaron Klug on Advice to Young Scientists
  Aaron Klug     Biography    
Recorded: 17 Jun 2005

I would say follow your interest, if you’re interested in things, and follow your interest. But you have to equip yourself to do a wider range of things than you are actually interested in immediately. That’s what I did. You never know what might pay off.

My interest was originally in biochemistry. Then it was in physics. Indeed, some of the physics I did—I also developed the optical diffraction for looking electron ________. So there were many things for which physical applications and worked out the mathematics of imagery construction electron microscopy. So but I didn’t know, I didn’t know. If I had had a special course in training I would have, but it didn’t happen that way. But I think the answer is to follow your interest. I think that’s the strongest advice. If you can, go to a place where there’s others around, a good lab. If you can find a mentor that’s terribly important. But then you don’t know. I found—by chance, I found Rosalind Franklin. She introduced me to the study of viruses. Before that I had been a bit of a dilettante. I had done different things. She showed me—I don’t mean directly that you have to be single minded about certain things. Also to tackle long and difficult problems rather than publishing clever papers. I have published a few clever papers which didn’t have a great impact. So you’ve got to have something—and to do long term work. One of the things about the MRC which is why we are very lucky here is they’ve always supported long-term MRC work, long term work. So when I moved here from London working on plant viruses, later we worked on polio virus but in those days we worked on plant viruses, tobacco mosaic virus and then spherical viruses. I worked out the architecture of these viruses and somebody in the Medical Research Council [asked] why is he working on plant viruses? So, well the answer was it was the easiest access. Later we moved to polio virus. So I spent many years on virus structure. That led to electron microscopy and that led to the x-ray CAT scanner. [The Nobel Prize, yes. I didn’t get the Nobel Prize for the x-ray CAT scanner. Some people think I should have. No, no. It’s finished now.] They gave it to a man called Hounsfield who had read all my papers. He persuaded EMI to build the apparatus. He deserved it.

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