Richard Henderson


Richard Henderson

© Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud

Richard Henderson
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017

Born: 19 July 1945, Edinburgh, Scotland

Affiliation at the time of the award: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Prize motivation: “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”

Prize share: 1/3


Richard Henderson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. After studies at the University of Edinburgh, he received his doctor’s degree at the University of Cambridge, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in 1969. After a stay in the U.S. at Yale University, New Haven, he returned to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 1973. He has been working there ever since.


Fundamental processes of life are governed by a number of complicated molecules. The electron microscope, which uses electron beams instead of light, expands the possibilities to image these molecules. However, electron beams destroy biological structures. Richard Henderson succeeded in finding a way to avoid by combining weaker rays and mathematical analysis. In 1990, he generated a detailed three-dimensional image of a molecule. Electron microscope images provide knowledge that is important for the development of pharmaceuticals, among other things.

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