Sir Aaron Klug

July 28, 2000

Royal Society involvement in finding up to 50 researchers to benefit from "brain gain" money announced in this week's science white paper may be controversial, but for Royal Society president Aaron Klug it is essential. Earlier this month he said more money for science equipment was not enough without competitive salaries for scientists.

The son of a Lithuanian cattle breeder who emigrated to Africa in 1928, Klug was educated at Durban High School and the Univer-sity of Wi****ersrand in Johannesburg. He studied medicine but changed to chemistry and then took physics and mathematics.

After an MSc in crystallography and a junior lecturership at the University of Cape Town, he won a scholarship and research studentship to Trinity College, Cambridge. He wanted to study "unorthodox" X-ray crystallography but as the unit was full, he took a PhD in solid state physics.

In 1953, he moved to Birkbeck College and joined Rosalind Franklin in the study of tobacco mosaic virus and spherical viruses, becoming director of the virus structure research group when she died in 1958.

Four years later, he moved to the new Medical Research Council laboratory of molecular biology in Cambridge, at the invitation of Nobel prizewinner Francis Crick.

In 1978, Klug was named joint head of the laboratory's division of structural studies and four years later won a Nobel prize for his work on the three-dimensional structure of viruses and for his development of cystallographic electron microscopy. He became director of the MRC Laboratory in 1986.

Klug has argued that science needs to engage more with popular culture, perhaps with scientists appearing in docusoaps featuring their work.

He is a gentle, courteous man, much loved by his students. He was knighted in 1988 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1995, the same year he became Royal Society president. He is due to leave the post in November.

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