Did you know?
South African chemist Aaron Klug decided to study medicine after reading the book Microbe Hunters.
Nobel laureate Aaron Klug is recognised for developing crystallographic electron microscopy (determining the arrangement of atoms in solids using an electron microscope). As a South African biophysicist, Aaron Klug is also credited with documenting the structures of viruses.
Aaron Klug was born in Lithuania but relocated to South Africa at age two. He grew up in the coastal city of Durban, which he recalls 'was a fine place for a boy' with its beach and bush landscape. Klug completed a science degree at Wits University and studied crystallography (atom arrangement in solids) at the University of Cape Town, which nurtured his interest in the structure of matter.
After experimenting with X-ray diffraction, Klug left South Africa for the UK. He completed his doctorate at Cambridge's Trinity College in 1953, venturing further into the X-ray analysis of biological molecules. A Nuffield Fellowship saw Klug joining JD Bernal's department at London's Birbeck College later that year.
He met Rosalind Franklin, who was working on the tobacco mosaic virus, and became fascinated by her X-ray photos. This, he says, sealed his fate as he extensively studied the virus and four years later, revealed the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus.
Klug went on to publish a paper with Francis Crick on diffraction by helical structures and extended his research to include spherical viruses, before joining the new MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.
The years that followed were marked with Klug's breakthrough development of crystallographic electron microscopy. He was awarded Columbia University's Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1981, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1982 and knighted in 1988.
Klug was elected President of the Royal Society in 1995 and received the Society's Order of Merit that year. He served as president until 2000 and in 2005 was awarded the South African Order of Mapungubwe Gold for exceptional achievements in medical science.
Klug married South African Liebe Bobrow and has two sons. He resides in the UK.