Klug, Aaron

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KLUG, AARON (1926– ), British biochemist and Nobel laureate. Born in Lithuania, Klug was taken by his parents to South Africa at the age of two. As a youngster, he was a member of the Habonim Zionist youth movement. In 1949, after attending the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town, he moved to Cambridge, England. He began as a medical student, transferred to science, earning his Ph.D. at the Cavendish laboratory and Trinity College, Cambridge University. From 1954 to 1958 he pursued his academic career with Rosalind Franklin, at Birkbeck College of the University of London studying the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus, and in 1958 he became director of the Virus Structure Research Group there. In 1962 he joined the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, became joint head of the Structural Studies Division in 1978, and he was director of the Laboratory from 1986 to 1996.

Klug was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1982 for his contribution to the advancement of science through his study of the three-dimensional structure of the combinations of nucleic acids and proteins. He developed techniques which enabled the study of both crystalline and non-crystalline material and led to "crystallographic electron microscopy." He demonstrated that a combination of a series of electron micrographs taken at different angles can provide a three-dimensional image of particles, a method which is of use in studying protein complexes and viruses. His work later formed the basis of X-ray ct scanner. His subsequent research was on the structure of dna and rna binding proteins which regulate gene expression and in particular on the interaction with the zinc finger family of transcription factors which he discovered.

Klug was president of the Royal Society (1995–2000), a member of the Order of Merit, a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences, and received many honorary degrees. He also made important contributions in biotechnology and was involved in the creation of the Sanger Center in Cambridge, which was responsible for sequencing one-third of the human genome. Klug was a very active supporter of Ben-Gurion University in Israel and from 2004 was the chairman of its Institute of Biotechnology.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]