11 August 1926 - Birth of Aaron Klug, developed crystallographic electron microscopy

Aaron Klug was born in Zelvas, Lithuania, on 16 August 1926. When he was only 2 years old he moved with his family to Durban, South Africa.

Klug attended Durban High School. From an early age he read voraciously all kinds of books, but it was Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters that had the greatest impact on him and led him to study medicine as a pathway to microbiology.

At the University of the Witwatersrand, he studied medicine and biochemistry, also broadening his training in physics and mathematics, so that he finally graduated with a degree in science. He then studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England.

In 1953, Klug completed his Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge University. Later that year, he joined Birkbeck College, London, where he began working with Rosalind Franklin studying tobacco mosaic virus. Rosalind's untimely death at the age of 34 led Klug to take over the leadership of the research group and he extended his studies to spherical viruses.

In 1962, he moved to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, where he was appointed Director of the Structural Studies Division in 1978 and Laboratory Director in 1986. There he continued his structural studies of viruses and developed electron microscopy as a crystallographic technique.

In the 1970s, he employed X-ray diffraction diagramming methods which, combined with electron microscopy, allowed him to decipher nucleic acid-protein complexes, as well as to obtain images taken at different angles, achieving three-dimensional reconstructions of some proteins. In 1974, together with his collaborators, Klug became the first to collect the crystals of an RNA transfer and determine their structure.

In 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in the field of crystallographic electron microscopy.

Klug, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, was its president from 1995 to 2000. In 1988 he was made a Sir and in 1995 he was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. In 2005 he was honored with the South African Order of Mapungubwe for outstanding achievements in medical science.

Klug died in Cambridge, UK, on 20 November 2018 at the age of 92.

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