February 26, 2024
Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug: Founder of electron microscopy

Aaron Klug was a British-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist who was born on August 11, 1926. He is famous for discovering the structure of the T4 bacteriophage, which helped us to understand how DNA replicates itself during replication.

Klug grew up in London and was educated at University College School. In 1945 he received a scholarship to attend Clare College, Cambridge where he studied physics and mathematics; there he published his first paper in 1947 on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1948 and went on to receive a PhD from Clare College in 1950.

About Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug was the youngest person in Cambridge to receive a PhD until that time.

Later he became a researcher at Oxford University, but he returned to Cambridge in 1955 as a fellow of Trinity College; there he began to use x-ray diffraction technology to study many different substances including viruses, polymers and proteins.

In 1958 Klug spent a year working in the United States under the Fulbright Program; where he worked with Max Perutz from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology on hemoglobin. In 1961, Klug received funding from the Medical Research Council for his research on protein structures.

Klug became known for his work on viruses, especially phages (viruses that infect bacteria).

Life of Klug

His birth

Klug was born on August 11, 1926, in London England. His father had his own leather business, but he died during Klug’s childhood. His mother received help from the Jewish Orphanage in London until Klug was fifteen years old.

Education of Klug

Klug was educated at University College School, London, England. Klug received a scholarship to attend Clare College in Cambridge. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Clare College in 1948 and a PhD from Clare College in 1950.

In 1951 he began working as a research fellow at St Catharine’s College to study nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy with Felix Mirkin and Harold Whitehead; he remained there until 1955 when he became a fellow of Trinity College.

Personal Life

In 1944 Klug married Evelyn (née Lewis); the couple had one child. Klug was an extremely energetic person who didn’t sleep at night, but he would take a power nap during the day. He liked to work alone, but still made time for friends and family. Although he was often very quiet and reserved, behind closed doors he enjoyed speaking in Yiddish with anyone who knew it; even some of his friends didn’t know this about him.

Klug liked to watch football and loved reading detective novels by Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, as well as Oscar Wilde’s famous book The Picture of Dorian Gray.


In 1951 Klug began working as a research fellow at St Catharine’s College to study nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy with Felix Mirkin and Harold Whitehead, remaining there until 1955 when he became a fellow of Trinity College.

While working at Oxford University from 1955 to 1958, he designed and constructed the first x-ray diffraction equipment in England.

In 1961, with the help of a Medical Research Council fellowship, he and his family moved to Falkirk, Scotland, where he spent two years collaborating with Max Perutz on hemoglobin. He also met Francis Crick in London during this time.

What did Aaron Klug discover?

By 1958, Klug had designed and built an x-ray diffractometer in Oxford. (an instrument used for determining the structure of a substance by measuring the x-rays that are diffracted )

The device Klug created was mounted in the window of his office and used to investigate the structure of a protein called hemoglobin and his discoveries prompted him to move to Cambridge, England where he would work on a project that would award him with one of the world’s greatest honors.

Klug’s work resulted in several important breakthroughs. First, he was able to prove that it wasn’t necessary for all proteins to be large and complex; only the ones from viruses were like this.

Why did Aaron Klug win a Nobel Prize?

Klug had always been fascinated by viruses because they are made up of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins. He wondered how it was possible for these two non-identical substances to work together harmoniously.

In 1968, a new virus called the T4 phage was isolated from bacteria. After he studied this virus for a year, Klug discovered within its protein shell a molecule that he called “polynucleotide.” This piece of DNA had never been found within the structure of any protein before; therefore it wasn’t possible at the time to determine whether or not it really was DNA or RNA that had been altered by some unknown means.

Awards and Honors

In 1970, Klug received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “fundamental studies of the structure of viruses.”

In 1971, he was made a Knight Bachelor after being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1973, Klug was made president of the European Molecular Biology Association (E.M.B.A.).

Klug retired from active research in 1981 but remained on the board of directors for many years after that, along with Francis Crick and Max Perutz, until his death on October 10, 2001.

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