Max Ferdinand Perutz
Born: 19 May 1914, Vienna, Austria
Died: 6 February 2002, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for their studies of the structures of globular proteins"
Field: biochemistry, structural chemistry
Prize share: 1/2
Max Perutz was born in Vienna, where his father owned a textile factory. After university studies in Vienna, Perutz applied to join Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in 1936, where he later completed his PhD. During World War II he was involved in defense-related projects and spent some time in Canada. After the war he returned to Cambridge, where he played a pivotal role in establishing the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Max Perutz was married with two children.
When X-rays pass through a crystalline structure, the patterns formed can be captured as photographic images, which are then used to determine the crystal's structure. During the 1930s, this method was used to map increasingly large and complex molecules. Max Perutz began to map the structure of hemoglobin, for example - the protein that allows blood to transport energy-giving oxygen to the body's muscles. His study, completed in 1959, was later followed by further studies of the hemoglobin molecule and its function.