Architects of Structural Biology is an amalgam of memoirs, biography, and intellectual history of the personalities and single-minded devotion of four scientists who are among the greatest in modern times. These three chemists and one physicist, all Nobel laureates, played a pivotal role in the creation of a new and pervasive branch of biology. This led in turn to major developments in medicine and to the treatment of diseases as a result of advances made in arguably one of the greatest centres of scientific research ever: the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, which they helped to establish. Their work and that of their predecessors at the Royal Institution in London reflects the broader cultural, scientific and educational strength of the UK from the early 19th century onwards. Architects of Structural Biology also illustrates the nurturing of academic life in the collegiate system, exemplified by the activities of, and cross-fertilization within, a small Cambridge college.
1: Max Perutz, John Kendrew, Peterhouse and the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory
2: The Birth and Initial Exploitation of X-ray Diffraction
3: W. H. Bragg and his Creation of a World-Famous Centre for X-ray Crystallography at the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory
4: A Dispute Between the Cavendish and Caltech: The Emergence and Ubiquity of the Alpha Helix
5: Perutz and Kendrew: The Heroic Era of Structural Molecular Biology
6: Sir Lawrence Bragg at the RI (1953-1966) and the Determination of the First Three-Dimensional Structure of an Enzyme at the DFRL (1965)
7: Lawrence Bragg and Linus Pauling: Comparisons and Rivalries
8: Biographical Sketches
9: Contributions of Cambridge College Life to Structural Biology: Peterhouse as an Exemplar
10: The Summing Up: The Astonishing Successes of the LMB, and the Dawn of a New Structural Biological Era
Sir John Meurig Thomas is Former Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory, London, and former Master of Peterhouse. He was Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry and Professorial Fellow of King's College, University of Cambridge. John Meurig Thomas was knighted for services to chemistry and the popularisation of science. His biography of Michael Faraday has been translated into Japanese, Chinese and Italian. He has received numerous international and national awards for his work, including the Royal Medal of the Royal Society for his contributions to green chemistry and clean technology. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and of the Swedish and Russian Academies of Sciences.
"A superb exposition of many inter-related topics. The author is very articulate with a great talent for explaining in an approachable, perceptive and jargon-free manner the insights, interactions and key milestones. The book will be a popular, accessible portal into the hidden depths of molecular and biological structure as revealed during the last century."
– Richard Henderson, Nobel Laureate, Cambridge University
"This is a landmark book on the lives and work of four brilliant Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and many of their colleagues, whose pioneering research on structural biology has transformed modern medicine. [...] It should be read by a wide range of scientists, from pre-university students to professors and directors of research institutes. If you can only read one scientific book this year, read this one."
– Sir Colin Humphreys, Director of Research, University of Cambridge
"Biomedical research – elucidating the chemistry of life – is now a massive enterprise. This book focuses on some key pioneering stages, when a conjunction of individuals initiated huge advances, through insight, instrumental skill and determination. [...] This superbly-written celebration of some great scientists and their achievements deserves wide readership."
– Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
"[John Meurig Thomas'] vivid profiles [...] illumine the field of structural biology and help explain how the Laboratory of Molecular Biology became one of the most successful and influential scientific establishments ever. "
– Lubert Stryer, Stanford University
"This book will inspire many young scientists and intrigue a wide readership."
– Dudley Herschbach, Harvard University